Constantly Changing: Chris Hornbrook of Senses Fail/Poison The Well


Chris Hornbrook, photo provided by ChrisHornbrook.com

Chris Hornbrook, photo provided by ChrisHornbrook.com

Chris Hornbrook has been one of the most distinctive drummers in music for almost 20 years. Best known for his work with seminal modern metal innovators Poison The Well, in addition to sitting behind the kit for Senses Fail for the last few years, Chris is also known for his work with Big Black Delta and many other live and session gigs. For a guy as accomplished as he is, he comes across as humble and positive; something you can’t say about everyone who has been in the business this time.

 

Having just reunited with Poison The Well to play two shows, this seemed like a good place to begin:

They were really great and I personally had a blast. The headlining gig was obviously our thing, so that was a bit more fun because we had control over how the show went in terms of venue, lighting, monitors, etc. The set list felt really good, as was the people in the audiences enthusiasm and excitement. Skate and Surf was cool and I had a good time, too. A bit of a shorter set and since it wasn’t our show, the less control over all the variables that can make or break a show. Overall, it was really great.

Poison The Well in 2015, photo by Luis Ruiz

Poison The Well in 2015, photo by Luis Ruiz

 

We next asked about the spark that brought PTW back together again and if there would be other shows in the future:

I think it had been in the back of heads for a while. We never stopped playing and recording because we didn’t want to create with one another or hated each other’s guts. PTW stopped because it had become too taxing for some and a few of the band members felt like it was time to take a step back. A break was needed. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the future with other shows. Nothing is confirmed yet.

Looking back, a lot of today’s bands, especially metalcore bands, owe Poison The Well some props at least as one of the originators of the style. We wondered if Chris, when he hears modern bands, does he feels proud, ripped off, or nonplussed?

I mean I would never say we were the originators of the whole “metalcore” thing. There were a ton of bands that came way before us that had laid the ground work down and produced some really interesting and cool stuff. From my perspective, we just wrote the right record at the right time. I think we could modestly take credit for helping popularizing that sound in the early 2000’s. In terms of today’s metalcore scene, I really have no feeling in either direction. I don’t listen to that genre much anymore and if I do dip into something heavy, it’s more of a “boutique” band and/or sound.

 

Being a band that was innovative and leader in their sub-genre, and then changed radically; sometimes this has the fan base at odds with a band and their creative choices. We asked if Chris agreed or disagreed with this notion:

Thank you and I agree with you. What I’ve come to see and learn is people get very emotionally attached to a record because of where they were in their lives at that point. What that record did to help them out and pull them through whatever time they were having, good or bad. So they REALLY get attached. It’s like they develop a personal and close relationship with that record much like a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife. Additional to that, people don’t like change, which is something that I find ironic as life is constantly changing. But, we’re creatures of habit and comfort…

So with that being said, when you serve up something that sounds different, you’re normally met with, well, whatever you’re met with. Sometimes good, but more likely than not, critical and bad because it’s not what they envisioned you to do. So PTW just learned not to really care, as being creative, trying new things and pushing into territory that we hadn’t been before became number one. This was advantageous and detrimental all at once.

 

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Senses Fail just wrapped up a spring tour and their new album Pull The Thorns From Your Heart (Pure Noise) drops in about a month. What can fans expect from the record?

An extremely heavy record, very different than the bands past work. Once again, this is going to get very polarized responses. I’m trying to approach it the same way I do with PTW, not really caring because negativity can take its toll on you if you let it in.
Over the arc of a long career that started when he was still in high school, Chris has worked with some of the greats in music production. We asked if he had a favorite producer (production team and if there was anyone he’d like to work with given the chance.

Yes, I’m very lucky to have worked with some of the people that I have. I respect all the dudes that I’ve worked with in different ways and have taken different bits from each person, one not superseding the other. Hopefully, I can check off a few more names before I die. I’d really like to work with Steve Albini, Joe Barresi, Ken Andrews, Rick Rubin, Dave Fridmann just to name a few.

 

Booked for all of 2015 with projects and tours, we asked about his other gigs since he seems to be perpetually working:

Yes! I’m very lucky and stoked to have a full year of work. I’m already starting to hear of plans for next year, which is great. In terms of other projects, I have one with Beau from Saosin, but that’s been put on hold. We’re both really busy at the moment. Hopefully, we can resume sometime towards the end of the year.
Lastly we wanted to know what he does in his down time and what hobbies Chris enjoys

I’m a busy body / work-o-holic. I have to stay busy doing something or I’ll lose my mind. So, with that being said, I generally bounce in between drumming and learning more of that craft, spending time with my girlfriend and friends, and keeping on top of whatever business stuff I have going on. I fill in as much space as I can.
Chris Hornbrook can be seen this summer on the Vans Warped Tour with Senses Fail. You can follow his other projects and book him for lessons via his website.

KEITH CHACHKES


Under A Pale Moon – Fredrick Åkesson of Opeth


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In the calm backstage area of Manchester’s Academy 2 venue, Fredrick Åkesson sits, hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head with a shock of curly hair and piercing blue eyes peering out at you. The guitarist is a softly spoken yet determined character who is eager to discuss the metamorphosis of Sweden’s premier progressives Opeth and their new album Pale Communion (Roadrunner). ‘I think if we had made a record right after Heritage which had heavy guitars and screaming vocals then people would think we had admitted defeat!’ Fred muses drawing closer. ‘Heritage’ was a bold step for us and not everyone liked it but it was an important for Mikael to write.’

Indeed for many of the band’s devoted faithful Pale Communion, like its predecessor, will be hard to swallow. Again there are no death growls or downtuned bludgeon with founder Mikael Åkerfeldt opting to draw further from the depth of seventies prog and sixties hard rock. ‘We wanted the guitars to have more beef than before.’ Fred confirms. ‘It was great recording abroad at Rockfield studios in Wales. We knew we would get the right vibe there. They have had Queen, Sabbath and Rush record there so we were really happy to be in such good company. The piano that Freddy Mercury wrote ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on is still there which is pretty cool. We worked 14 hour days, ate all our meals there and nailed the album in 30 days. It was a really efficient way of recording. It’s quite something looking out of the window and all you see are cows!’ ‘I think I got to know Mikael’s style better. He encourages me to freak out more!’

 

Pale Communion’s biggest surprise however comes in the shape of ‘River’. This song adopts an almost southern rock feel akin to an act like The Allman Brothers with a meandering midsection which then veers off towards 70s abandon. ‘I thought that many people would hate that song but it seems to be a favourite. We considered putting death metal vocals on the end of the song but it didn’t fit the arrangement we had in mind. It was going to have a very extreme ending if it had worked!’

The death metal vanguard may voice their disapproval but there is no denying that the elaborate arrangements which weave their way through the record are some kind of attempt to cater for the masses, metal or otherwise. ‘It’s just the way it turned out. This is a more hard rock album but nothing is set in stone for the future. We haven’t ruled out writing heavier material again. It’s good that people have strong opinions about this record! If you cannot provoke a reaction then you cease to be relevant creatively. In concert it is a different situation. We play songs from every album other than ‘Orchid’ so that should please the older fans. We never want to trot out the same set twice. It is important to play a set that pleases the old fans though.’

Witnessing Opeth’s performance to a packed house should quash the rumours that Mikael is no longer able to muster his fearsome snarl of old. Fred is also quick to debunk such a suggestion. ‘I think it is very easy for him to do the death metal vocals. It is easier than some of the clean parts he does. If a song requires that type of vocal then we will do that.’

As support act Alcest can be heard warming up the venue with their lush, shoe gaze rock, Fred discusses how the tour has been going. He reveals that besides sharing the bill he is yet to become well acquainted with his French touring companions. ‘We played festival shows with them last summer and our management suggested them. I have only seen them live and don’t know more about their black metal past. They have cool atmospheres and I will check their discography out.’

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Building a legacy on their own terms has always been Mikael Akerfeldt’s approach. Despite all the backlash from some fans relating to ‘Heritage’ the album got into the top twenty of the American Billboard chart. Not bad for an opus which some have called the band’s ‘Cold Lake’. As the vocalist warms up in the background, Fredrick muses on the fact that Opeth can be thought of in the same way as acts like King Crimson or Rush, not just sonically but also in terms of building a fanbase. ‘We like to be unpredictable and branch out. It is important to surprise ourselves and keep it fresh and develop. That kind of thing will divide the fanbase but I think it’s important to stick to our guns. We used a lot of keys and mellatron on the new album. We could use orchestral parts or go heavier. Who knows?’

Ignoring press hype and immersing himself in the escape that is great music whether it be when recording or on tour, Fred is keen to keep things fresh for himself and while calm and passive throughout it is clear he has no time for detractors who criticised the direction Opeth has taken. ‘I don’t read the comments on the internet. We do read reviews in magazines but I can ignore it. I understand people want to hear that stuff but we have nine other albums of that. Mikael wants to do something different and not repeat himself. There is a connection between the old and new material. The lyrics for this album are very personal and about Mikael’s worldview as a father. We all feel really connected to these experiences.’

 

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ROSS BAKER


Big Ears – Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity


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Corrosion of Conformity have a great new album out, entitled IX (Candlelight). Still a trio, I had the pleasure of interviewing the very cool Mike Dean about this latest killer release, which is chock-full of southern-fried grooves, a touch of punk and the tasty riffage COC is known for. After exchanging pleasantries, we got right down to business…

 

 

I loved the last record (Corrosion of Conformity, Candlelight, 2012), but I’m digging this one (IX)a lot more. How do you feel this release compares?

I like it a little more myself. I think one the things that differentiate this one from the self-titled – which I’m proud of – is the fact that we dusted off that trio lineup and put in it in effect around the same time as the record so we hadn’t really…owned our identity as three-piece in this era. It took a lot of going out and playing in front of a lot of people to sort of develop that. So the whole ‘identity’ factor, was one, and the other factor was our experience with the self-titled. At that time, we got on a plane, we flew to California, we made a record at a far away studio, and we didn’t actually have all of our equipment, so we just looked around for what we could find, and we utilized that, and it was kinda challenging, but the short version of it is we didn’t really get a sound that reflected what typifies what we do together. So when we made this record we took the approach of capturing that.”

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So then there was a bit of…not finding your feet, so to speak, because obviously you guys have been playing together forever, but getting that comfort level back, plus not having your own equipment, being away from home…

 

Yeah, it just made us hungry to sort of, say, yeah, let’s get Woody Weatherman’s entire battle-rig, his entire guitar set up, and let’s find a place to put some microphones in front of it so it’s like being there, and in terms of the drums, let’s document Reed Mullin and his 30-something-year-old drumkit he’s had since before he could legally drive and really capture that, and it interacting with the room and the acoustic space.”

 

What is your favorite track on the record?

 

I have to say…it’s kind of a toss-up…today, I’m gonna have to say…’Brand New Sleep’. It wasn’t supposed to be on the record. You know, you write 14 or 15 in order to get 10, so I think those guys didn’t think we were recording it for the record, and they were just having fun, and didn’t even know we were getting a take, it was a real casual run through. So they were a little surprised when I put a vocal on it and it ended up as the lead-off track on the album.”

 

 

There is definitely an almost funky vibe in some spots on this one. Was there anything in particular that lent to the groove, or was it just getting even more reacquainted writing and playing as trio again?

 

Well, ya know, we’ve got big ears, we listen to a lot of different stuff. Rhythmically, Reed Mullin has a lot of tricks that he does. The inspiration for some of the funkier parts would be ZZ Top, stuff like that. Even the jazzier elements like what Bill Ward would bring to the table. There are a number of moments that are in reverence to Black Sabbath, it’s all over certain songs, like ‘Elphyn’…we just listen to a lot of music, and I think it’s kinda fun to do that in heavier music, because it’s not often used to good effect, in that there may be a kind of stiff, Hip-Hop, type of mechanized mall-Metal version. so it’s fun to do that in a more organic, heavy fashion.”

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Obviously you guys can go through styles very easily, you’ve pretty much covered it all. When you say Sabbath, the eleventh track (‘The Nectar Reprised’)…that is SOOO Sabbath! The first track of it was it’s own thing, but the reprise you went all out with the Sabbath

 

Yeah, there is a particular lick, it’s not anything verbatim, but I know what your mean!”

 

Can you give us any info on the upcoming video for ‘On Your Way’? Did you choose this song, or the the label decide to use it?

 

We had a little talk, and we told them four songs that we were okay with making a video for and that happened to be one of them. Ya know, they do whatever scientific process of deciding what they’re going to invest their dollars in, and it happened to be ‘On Your Way’ which is fine because that was one of the tracks we were okay with. I don’t quite know what the process is.”

 

Well, at least you had some say in it…I know some labels are like, “here is the single for the video, go here and film it”…

 


“Yeah, and moreso in the past, when there was just more money at stake in general with music, but now it’s a smaller part of the economy, and it’s more a kind of informal thing.”

COC tour poster

Which leads me to the next question, you guys have been around long enough to remember when a video was the big thing to do…how do you feel about even doing a video now having seen the video golden age come and go?

 

Well..I don’t know if we saw the Golden Age…you saw the age where there was gold in a video because there was a big time expensive TV airtime (for them) and a lot of eyes on it so I guess that was the Golden Age. I don’t think it was the Golden Age of artistic content I mean, some of the music would be good, but we all know that the video essentially was at that time a TV commercial for a song, and now an Internet commercial for a song, and the people that directed them, you know we were lucky to get something that was non-formulaic or interesting into it. We’re hoping this one turns out a little difference. Yeah, I think it’s a good thing to shoot for, uh, a lot of times I wish I had an idea sooner of whether or not there was going to be a video so we could prepare for it and really do something special with all that kind of rush. But right now, the director is doing some raw footage down in Louisiana and told him I wasn’t worried about it, but I am a little worried about it. (laughs)”

 

So…it’s kind of a surprise; you did your footage and not you have no idea what he’s doing right now?

 

Well, we kinda have an idea because we all came up with the concept together, but in speaking conceptually and writing a little description in an email and talking about it is a whole lot different than actually putting it together and putting in context. So, uh, yeah, I’m just preparing my, “Okay, well, we could change this type of uh…” tactful, helpful voice, steering it in the direction it was originally intended. It’s all just conceptual words on paper, but as far someone actually get all of that footage, combine it and get a look…but I trust the guy, I like his stuff. I like his work. He was able to work with Pepper Keenan, who can be super – when it comes to aesthetic things – he can be super controlling or at least super involved, and he was able to come out on the other side of that successfully, so that’s a good thing.”

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Because of outside projects, I heard the recording for IX was a bit disjointed. What was the time frame between when you guys started working on songs and when you finally all hit the studio for real?

 

The whole thing – songwriting, making the demo and doing some basic tracks, doing some overdubs, and finally finishing some vocals, and mixing and getting it to mastering, took about a year, but it really only took about 9 weeks of work. There were a couple of COC tours in there, and Reed Mullin was off working on the Teenage Time Killers.”

 

…And you were doing the Vista Chino tour, correct?

 

Yeah, I did a couple of Vista Chino tours, a little recording and this and that…”

 

Was it hard to get into the groove so to speak, or were you and Reed able to just jump right into it?

 

Nah, it was kind of welcome, it wasn’t long enough to where we had forgotten anything by any means, or it was unfamiliar. But after the time away, it was a welcome thing. You know, sometimes you can really get stuck on a piece of music, and you’re focusing on individual grains of sand instead of stepping back and looking at the beautiful beach. I think it actually helped the process. There was kinda of a point at the end there where we felt like we were up against the gun, and we really needed to adhere to some deadlines, and that can go good or bad, but I think it kind of helped us to just get the job done. The one thing I really don’t like in a lot of contemporary music is the fact that people will mess with it endlessly, and they will strive to make it perfect, whether it is the good ol’ fashioned, honest method of, “do it again, do it again”, or the contemporary, “I have a computer, I can do anything” in either case, to me, a lot of those performances that are achieved like that, you kind of smell a rat, even if they’re good musicians, it lacks the immediacy and the cohesiveness of some competent people that got almost perfect but not quite perfect. It needs the human element for me to enjoy it. Which doesn’t mean it has to be sloppy, or anything like that…”

 

 

COC’s records are never over-produced, never overly processed; they have that great live swing to them. Is that always the goal, or that’s just how it works out between you guys and (producer) John Custer?

 

Well, I think originally when those guys started working with Custer while I was out of the band, it kind of went from, “what will these poor dudes are gonna do without me, man?” until a record called Blind (Relativity) come out, it’s just super musical and super kick-ass…I think that one, there was an emphasis of taking that idea of perfection almost as far as you can take it before you smell a rat or before you suck the life out of something but stopping way short of it. From what I told, now that I’m one of the engineers, and I know the guys in the back, it was a pretty exhausting process. At that point, those guys and Custer working together, they were really trying to make a statement and really make a tight, tight, tight, record. And it worked. From then on, all of us, and Custer in particular, he’s going for the performance. He has the ear for the performance, having a little something special about it, less on the technicality. There is a bare minimum of technicality, and he’s helping us with quality control and all that, but I find that his suggestions are…they’re fewer and farther between, but they’re just more…dead on. Everybody’s taste on that kind of thing has been pretty much in sync, there’s no telling how far we’ll take that aspect the next time just to see how it feels…it’s kind of what the material dictates to.”

 

Well, it is definitely refreshing to hear that “live” quality when everything is so overproduced and all of the souls is sucked out of it.

 

Yeah, especially in the world of Metal when everything it gets, super-mechanized and all the drums are triggered. You, know you don’t even hear a drum set, you don’t hear a drum kit, it’s not like a unified thing, with a common ambiance, it’s more of a collection of drums that are all carved up to be individually controllable. That can be impressive in small doses, and it’s impressive that technology has made it a possibility.”

 

Certain bands do call for it, I mean, I can’t see a band like Fear Factory doing what you guys do. Certain bands call for that sort of thing. The downside is that you couldn’t hear the bass player, so it’s nice that a lot of newer recordings are getting off of that, and bringing back live sounds and bringing the bass back up. Which I’m sure you appreciate!

 

Yeah, yeah, I do mixes for people and I have been accused of burying the bass a little bit, particularly if it’s my own, sometimes you have to step back and listen to the whole picture.”

 

 

I’m a fan of all of C.O.C.’s incarnations, but I’ve noticed that as a trio you never do any Pepper (Keenan) songs live. Is that a respect thing, or is it that you want to be true to the current lineup? What about singing ‘Damned for All Time‘, I think you would sound awesome on that!

 

That would be challenging, man, that’s a serious Karl (Agell) groove! That’s Karl in full, almost Ian Gillan-eque mode. I guess, basically a lot of those songs, Pepper songs, Karl songs, it’s just…I don’t know if I would wanna hear someone else sing those. You kinds what…it is kind of a respect thing. I mean, respect for the original creator and singer, even more respect for the audience you don’t wanna try to…you know, sometimes these bands are like an ongoing circus they bring in members, then they kick ’em out, and live they try to grind out the hits, or whatever, but it’s not quite the same, you know, someone else besides Ian Gillan singing ‘Highway Star’”

 

Some people are happy being hoodwinked like that, and are upset that you don’t, but I think a slight majority appreciate it.

 

One of the reasons we started off doing an original band is ‘cos we were hardcore punk, then we started putting in new influences, crossover, you know, whatever you wanna call it, the fact it, we couldn’t be in a cover band because we would mess up somebody’s song that was familiar to people, and they would call, “bullshit, you played it wrong!”, but when you create your own music there is no wrong, because it’s your own. So that’s how we started out, and years and years later now you have the pull of playing someone else’s material, that I was familiar with as a listener and give it the attention that it’s due, it’s real outside of my comfort zone, and kind of a challenge but it was a cool thing to do, and I enjoyed jamming with that.”

 

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LIVE PHOTOS BY CURTISS DUNLAP PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

LYNN JORDAN


Beaten Into What I Am: Tommy Victor of Prong


 

Being from New York, you tend to be pretty thick skinned and able to roll with anything that comes your way. Case in point, Omar Cordy recently chatted with his fellow native New Yorker and Prong mastermind Tommy Victor and delved into, wide-ranging, off-the-cuff conversation. Cutting through some sidesteps, clarifying misinformation regarding the line-up, and overcoming some early barriers to end up with an insightful chat, Tommy was affable and honest as ever, remaining professional as well, which we appreciate!

It’s not the same lineup, I had to find a way to pretty much do this myself. I mean, (drummer) Alexei Rodriguez couldn’t do it because he has a regular job and Tony Campos hasn’t been playing with me since Carved Into Stone.” Tommy explained when we asked about who really constituted the current line-up of Prong. “I’ve had Jason Christopher (Sebastian Bach), and he has been the bassist since that record. Campos, he did a couple of shows, here and there with us for Carved Into Stone. so yeah, those are the changes.”

 

Tommy has always been thought of a band leader and singular voice, but he actually likes to collaborate with others to get his ideas out:

I collaborated on all the songs with this guy, Chris Collier, on this record. So, it was bits and

pieces, he helped me out a lot on some songs and on others, I had more of them together, we just split it up really in the end. I have to have somebody with me to do shit because otherwise I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. With Steve Evetts, as far as vocals go, he comes in and produces the vocals so we nailed down some questions that I had at the last stage of putting the melodies together.”

 

 

We were under the impression Ruining Lives was done in the same studio as Carved Into Stone, but Tommy corrected us:

It was done at Mission Black Studio in Valencia, the basic tracks. And then, the vocals were recorded at Steve Evetts’ place in Garden Grove, and mixed there as well. All in the LA area.”

 

For a guy who has been at this roughly thirty years, Tommy been through a lot musically and personally: “Basically, it’s just room for improvement. I don’t think I’ve reached some kind of pinnacle yet, and I can do it, so those are two good reasons right there, without getting to wordy on it. I’ve seen improvements. It’s not like I’m a baseball player, where I’m hitting thirty-five and it’s time to hang up the jock strap. I can continually move on. I mean, there are a lot of things I could be focusing on musically that I haven’t and that’s even more of a challenge too. I mean, I’ve been guitar playing in the last ten years and before that, I really ignored it a lot and didn’t really pay that much attention to it. And as I work with other bands, and did other things, it’s a progression in that and it’s a lot of on the job training because I’m a lazy bastard and most of the time, I’m not going to try to sit and try to figure things out. And when I do, it’s very rewarding. So, in other words, I know there are lots of things I could be working on to get there.”

 

With statements like that he proudly wears that New York attitude in his sleeve… by way of Los Angeles. “(laughs) That’s just the way I talk. I’ve been out in California for a long time and everyone, the California people, always gives me a hard time about it.”

 

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The cover for Ruining Lives has that old school feel of it. With its brilliant color scheme it’s simple but effective. It’s one of my favorite Prong covers. We asked about the artist:

 

That one and Cleansing, I think they were the top ones for me. I mean, look the EP, the first

record, Primitive Origins that Shawn Taggart did; I really like that one as well. But yeah, that’s just like a black and white format. This one, was done by Vance Kelly and if you look at the cover while listening to the record, it just works; it’s because there are some elements of the record that are traditional Prong and things that only Prong does or cares to do and on the other hand, it’s a little modern and sounds youthful too, so it has a lot of energy in the record, so it just works. I’m really happy with it. I couldn’t be more happy with the cover.”

 

 

Youthful is the perfect way to describe the cover and just the overall vibe of the record. It doesn’t sound like a bunch of old guys trying to be current. It is a very genuine sounding album.

 

Yeah, yeah, I agree with that and it’s really true. The process it was fairly easy, it was a lot of work; it wasn’t a lot of pseudo-professional, over thinking about every minute detail which is an aspect of making records that I’ve experienced in the past that I’ve had to overcome and realize it’s just a waste of time. A song like ‘Turnover’, that’s really fresh, I mean that’s the last one written, it was dialed in very fast and it’s one of the most successful songs on the record. It’s like the same that happened with ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’, where the thing was written, in like, I don’t know, the lyric was written in about five minutes, then the actual song was written maybe, in about ten or fifteen minutes. So you have to be in this space, or this, I don’t know, spiritual or mental condition that enables these probational times to happen. And I’m not saying this happens all the time, it happens very rarely. And yeah, I got lucky. Lucky to do the right things in order for that to happen, either way. Some people believe in luck and I guess I don’t really, I just think that I’m fortunate.”

 

Prong tours and shows overseas seem to be more plentiful than there are over here in America. Perhaps the fanbase for the band is bigger over there or touring is just easier. Tommy weighs in on this: “That’s a very good question, it’s a lot easier to set things up overseas; the distances between locations are considerably shorter, and now that gas prices are so high, that contributes to a lot of financial problems while touring here in America. However we have an extensive US tour coming in the fall.”

Because any entertainment business chews you up and spits you out, only the tough, the hard survive. And sometimes people need a few years off, then they come back stronger than ever. I remember when

Prong came back on 2005 after a hiatus.

 

That’s the beauty of being a musician; you’ve got guys like Lemmy hanging around and Ozzy

and you know, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. You don’t really have those major league baseball pitcher limitations on your career that much.”

 

 

We wonder how tiring it must get to teach people songs again or I have to teach somebody X song for the fifteenth time.

It’s stressful. I’m not going to say it’s a great thing . But being as trio now I really can’t teach people the way I play and Prong guitar riffs anyhow. Monte Pittman, out of any guitar player I’ve seen or was able to jam with, he came pretty close to emulating the parts. I am sort of a strange player, based on the fingering I use, and the self taught nature that I have, that’s difficult. As far as Raven’s bass lines, a lot of people have problems playing those too because he had a very unique and brilliant approach to playing bass. And now, I’m really lucky, because this guy, Jason Christopher, he’s a fantastic bass player. He’s a rock n roll, punk rock bass player, but he’s really flexible. So I’m lucky to have him. A lot of times you have to trust what’s out there and that guys know what they are doing and pick up and be quick at knowing what’s going on. It’s just you go through a week period where some field problems, but you have to work through them and then you have to adapt to other people too. I mean, not everyone is supposed to adapt to me, I adapt to other people, and I think that’s an important aspect for the way I’ve been able to survive lineup changes and playing with other people and other bands and experiencing lineup changes and the other problems that I can work on is being patient and tolerant of other players. You have to adjust and adapt and work together on things, you know it’s not a dictatorial relationship at all. I try to work with everyone I come into contact with and that includes Glenn Danzig; sometimes I get impatient with him, but I step back and relax and we work on things together.”

 

With all goes on all that have an effect on what comes out, because when I listen to the new record, it’s a little more aggressive, it sounds like a combination of Carved Into Stone and Power of the Damager; it has some anger and it has some heart on it. “I don’t calculate too much these days what comes out. That reflects on what I said

earlier, I just know for some reason, I’ve been doing it for so long, when I’m working on riffs and initially that’s the way those songs start. Being the singer too, at the same time while I’m writing a riff, I’m thinking if this something I can put to the vocal tone s and lyric line at the same time. So the process is almost instantaneous, it’s not I have to write stuff and then I have to bring it to the singer and work with him and see if he can. It comes out of a lot of that period of the creation of a song. The rapidity of work this record and based on the fact I have a lot of experience in the last five years making records, whether it’s with Danzig, Ministry, or the pretty recent Prong albums. It’s not a lot of calculating for it, it’s just from being beaten into what I am now, it’s a lot of on the job training really, and as far as emotions go, I’ve always been soul-searching , very introspective, and when it comes to writing lyrics, that’s a time consuming and a very serious project for me.”

 

 

As a guy that writes all the time, Tommy already has some material in the can for the future.

There’s some, on Carved Into Stone there was a lot of songs written. And I didn’t go the cheat method on Ruining Lives. I was talking to the co-producer Steve Evetts who produced the vocals about six months ago when we were planning out scheduling for the new record and he goes, “What’s going on material-wise?” I go, “Dude, I’ve been so busy running around touring that I don’t really have that much.” He goes, “You have all those songs from Carved Into Stone that you didn’t use.” And then I had more on top of that stockpile, which may be another ten? And I went back and listened to them and I’m like, “No.” I literally had another album’s worth of material that was ready to go, but I started fresh. I seem to do that a lot, I listen to the stuff I have and I’m just like, “Nah, no.” So it’s always new stuff.”

It sounds like too much work to reinterpret it to make it now. “I can’t even do that and he wanted me to do that on a couple of tracks he liked that were on the earlier demos from Carved Into Stone, which like were 25 songs written for that record and demoed and completed. And he was just like, “What about this?” “what about that one and I was like, “nah, forget it.”

 

And with that, Tommy Victor just powers along, consistently moving and always ready for anything that gets thrown his way.

 

Prong on Facebook

 

 

OMAR CORDY


Holier Than Thou – David Nuss of Sabbath Assembly


 

sabbath assembly album cover

 

Fascinated with the teachings and the hymns of Process Church of the Final Judgment, David Nuss founded Sabbath Assembly as a tribute to this underground, avant-garde, practically unknown sacred music. Since the Church worshiped both Christ and Lucifer equally, they were outcasted from society, even by other fringe religious movements, such as Scientology which they shared some history with. Because they were disbanded by the late 70s, the hymns were thought to be lost to antiquity until Nuss discovered them and interpreted them for his records. Ghost Cult scribe James Conway connected with Nuss for an interview and received an account of this history, a glimpse into their genius vision, and examined Sabbath Assembly’s new opus Quaternity (Svart) as well.

 

When did you first become aware of the Process Church of the Final Judgment?

 

In 2009 I met original Processian Timothy Wyllie who showed me an advance copy of his book Love Sex Fear Death about his time in the Process.

 

 

How did the music of the church first affect you when you first heard it?

There was no music to hear, only sheet music from the hymns. The hymns had never been recorded because they were thought of as liturgical, rather than commercial. So our idea is that these two could meet – not commercial in the sense that we’re raking in the dollars, but in that the songs could be presented in the public marketplace rather than exclusively.

 

 

Do you have any input from current members of the Church on the recording and writing process?

There are no ‘current members’ because the Church fell apart in the mid 70s, and most people who were members then are not very public about it now because of the negative press the Church received. Timothy Wyllie, who was in the Church from its inception til it morphed to be an entity called “The Foundation Faith,” was a kind of ‘spiritual advisor’ on our first album, Restored to One, as was Genesis P. Orridge on our second, Ye Are Gods. Then we started getting some critiques from a guy called Anthony D’Andrea who says he was in a Boston Chapter of the Church in the 70s. He said we weren’t playing the hymns ‘as they were’ back in the day’ – which I’m sure is true. We’re doing our interpretation! So he played a couple over the phone for us, and those became ‘Lucifer’ and ‘The Four Horsemen’ on our new album Quaternity.

sabbath assembly band

 

Can you explain a little about the fourth element; the nature of evil and how it relates to the Christian Holy Trinity?

I don’t think it does relate to the Trinity exactly. The founding Church fathers (they were all men) deliberately left aspects out of the formation of the original Christian doctrines and creeds. These guys were not psychologists creating a balanced and healthy way for people to live; rather they were creating an autocratic government that needed a ‘spiritual’ component for validation of authority. Christianity was more multi-faceted before these guys starting decided who was a heretic and who wasn’t, creating a faux “Orthodoxy.” The idea of four elements is much more pagan, that is close to how nature actually works – solar/lunar, masculine/feminine, four directions, four elements (air water fire earth). The 4 is more about balance and natural reality, rather than political manipulation.

 

 

How did the recording of Quaternity come about and how does it relate to your previous two releases?

This is the second recording with Jamie Myers. How has she fit into the band and how does her approach differ from previous vocalist Jex Thoth? (If at all)

 

This recording was specifically crafted for Jamie’s voice. She came in a bit late in the game on the Ye Are Gods recordings cuz the songs were already done, so she had to fit what was there. This time we built our sound around her; we are so grateful to have her in the band. We took months making demos and sending them back and forth to her (between New York City and Texas where she lives), not rushing anything, so we could craft each track carefully, giving them each a unique voice.

 

Restored to One, the album with Jex, was much more experimental in that she and I had been working with a huge variety of musicians in developing the songs, and the recording of the album was almost improvised with a couple of last minute hired-gun jazz musicians. And Jex was eager to get back to her own project. Now, Jamie and I are in this for the long haul, so we’re really working on a true band dynamic.

 

There are many guest performances on Quaternity. Can you describe how some of these came about?

Daron Beck has been Jamie’s friend and neighbor since they were kids, and we have both been long time admirers of his voice and his band Pinkish Black. Mat and Marja from Hexvessel are total cohorts in the world of ‘holy rock n roll” so including them was an obvious choice, which led to our subsequent tour.

sabbath assembly - photo 2014 small

 

You have performed on stage with several metal bands despite your music having no obvious metallic sounds. What kind of reaction have you had from metal audiences?

Metalheads love Satan, so anytime we sing about Satan they are happy. And Jamie hates singing about Jesus so we don’t really do that much anymore, ha. Even though our music doesn’t sound metal exactly, she and our guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia) and I were all born and raised on distorted power chords and double bass, so we’d like to think the spirit of metal is in there. If you check out what’s “metal” going back the last nearly 40 years there’s a pretty big variety so we are thrilled to be part of it’s ongoing development.

Is there a limited number of hymns for you to adapt on further recordings or will you be able to continue Sabbath Assembly with music inspired by the Church or similar?

The next album is going to be all original tunes, inspired by our time working with the Church, but completely separate from it.

 

 

Do you have a dream artist or band to collaborate with, that you have yet to?

Honestly we’re done collaborating. Our unit is so tight right now that we don’t need any extra assistance.

What touring plans, if any do you have on tap for 2014?

We are touring Northern Europe in May, beginning at the Heavy Days of Doom Town fest in Copenhagen on May 4th. See you there!

 

 

Why should readers of Ghost Cult check out Sabbath Assembly?

Our goal is to create beautiful and uplifting music that supports all your angels and demons. The intention is to be affirming of wherever you’re at.

 

Sabbath Assembly on Facebook

 

JAMES CONWAY

 


High Art, Dark Hearts – Dragged Into Sunlight


Dragged into sunlight

Burning candles. Backs turned resolutely to the audience. And of course the ever-present goat skull. It’s fair to say that Dragged Into Sunlight are one of the most intense and overwhelming live acts this country has ever produced, and we haven’t even mentioned the deafening volume and harrowing serial killer samples yet. For those who can take it, Dragged Into Sunlight’s set at Temples Festival will in all likelihood be impossible to miss. Let’s just hope they don’t set the fire alarm off. Mysteriously due to the closely guarded anonymity of the group… we are not sure which member answered our questions.

You are notoriously choosy when it comes to live shows. What made you agree to play Temples?

Temples has one of the more intriguing line ups that the UK has seen. Naturally, we were intrigued.

How important is the visual aspect to your live show?

Dragged Into Sunlight places significant emphasis on ‘feeling’ music in all of its forms. Dragged Into Sunlight is subjective and the importance therefore varies between individuals. That said, ultimately Dragged Into Sunlight has one motivation, putting everything we have into every moment we have and that integrity and intensity is second to none.

DIS-Cover

It’s been 18 months or so since the release of Widowmaker (Prosthetic). What has the reaction been like?

Widowmaker was well received. Whilst perhaps not the easiest to digest, it is anticipated to withstand time where others consistently fail. It is a recording which continues to challenge perception and serves as a suitably apt summary of a very specific window in time.

Is it difficult choosing a set list when so much of your music is best digested as a whole rather than via individual songs?

Whilst some may value specific parts over others, given that Dragged Into Sunlight is a completely selfish endeavour, the decision process is relatively straight forward. It is what it is, and you are free to consume as much or as little as you wish.

Is it hard to maintain your preferred method of anonymity in the digital age and does this approach make it easier or harder to reinforce the idea that Dragged Into Sunlight exists as a concept rather than ‘just a band.?’

It is certainly unfortunate that contemporary society struggles with the unknown and there exists what is almost an entitlement to know. Given the composition and the number of individuals involved, it would be difficult to interpret Dragged Into Sunlight as anything other than a concept. That said, every concept requires an explanation and where there is explanation there can be an understanding.

You have recently announced your first tour of Japan. What do you anticipate from touring in the East?

Godzilla Vs Mothra.

You have previously collaborated with an artist, Den Unge Herr Holm who depicted a show you played in Norway last year. How did this come about and do you anticipate similar collaborations in the future?

It was not a premeditated collaboration rather a chance encounter, nevertheless Kim Holm is exceptionally talented and we look forward to meeting again on our next visit to Norway. Whilst we always anticipate collaboration, time is not always on our side and we do what we can with the time available to us.

Dragged Into Sunlight tour poster

You have recently collaborated with Gnaw Their Tongues. Can you tell us about this meeting of minds and any news on a forthcoming full length release?

It derived from mutual admiration following meeting in 2010. We anticipate releasing a selection of those recordings in due course. We are currently writing and experimenting new material.

What bands are you most excited about sharing the stage with and seeing perform at Temples?

Repulsion and War Wolf.

What can we expect from your Temples set?

Misery forever.

Dragged Into Sunlight

JAMES CONWAY