Sam Levin (synth bass), Timo Ellis (guitar, vocals), Dave Burnett (drums)
Describing the music of Brooklyn-based Netherlands is hardly an easy task. Erik Wunder (of Cobalt and Man’s Gin), who gets the credit for introducing me to these guys, defines their style as “hyper-noise-punk-electro-psychedelic-metal.” This seemingly convoluted tag oddly fits the outfit that doesn’t shy away from embracing divergent styles in a high-octane manner. The trio’s second full-length Silicon Vapor is one of the most invigorating rock records of the year, juxtaposing eccentric musical ideas with enticing melodies deeply ingrained in the rock tradition. These qualities are combined with extremely fuzzed-out tunings of instruments that certainly distinguish Netherlands from the pack. Here’s my interview with Timo Ellis, the trio’s frontman whose impressive resume includes collaborations with Yoko Ono, Melvins and John Zorn over his extensive 20-year career as a session musician.
What motivated you to form Netherlands?
I’d had a band called Bird Of Doom in the early 2000s. After its natural dissolution, I really wanted to maintain an outlet for my weirder rock inclinations!
Your music is rather difficult to pin down as you combine many different subgenres of rock, punk and even metal. How would you define your style?
I’ve made loads of dramatically different types of records besides the rock stuff. I think I’m up to 33 albums at this point: 17 LPs and 16 EPs. So, I think other styles of music end up naturally coming out a…
Kim Pack (violin, vox), Christian Creek (bass), Rebecca Vernon (guitar, vox), Andy Patterson (drums), Sarah Pendleton (violin, vox)
There are enough qualities that distinguish Salt Lake City’s SubRosa from their doom metal brethren. Aside from ingeniously incorporating violins into their ultra-heavy sound, the quintet excels in songwriting that’s singular in its brutally honest depiction of tenebrous themes. Their new staggering full-length More Constant Than The Gods (Profound Lore) centers around the topic of Death and its numerous implications. Instead of alienating the listener with such a serious subject matter, the album manages to sound visceral throughout, delivering a series of expansive tunes that ebb and flow with admirable precision. Here’s my interview with the band’s charismatic mastermind, Rebecca Vernon.
What inspired you to be a musician? Were there any particular moments in your life when you thought that you couldn’t live without creating music or was the whole process of becoming a guitarist, singer and songwriter more fluid?
Music is my number one passion and has always been in my blood. There are times when I’ve been distracted by other things, but those periods never last long.
I started taking music lessons on violin at the age of 9, then learned piano and drums around age 12. I played these instruments in school orchestras and marching bands, and later, in college, real bands.
Becoming a guitarist, singer and songwriter, though, was very abrupt. I had wanted to start a band for about…
Wo Fat are one of the most acclaimed stoner rock acts today. The Texas-based trio have rapidly risen to the forefront of the genre, blending fat, fuzzed-out riffs with hints of psychedelia and Southern rock flavors. The success of their latest effort, The Black Code, allowed the band to reach a wider audience, touring Europe for the first time. Amid a busy schedule, guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump found time to answer a couple of questions for SputnikMusic.
For those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it in a few words?
Basically speaking, our music is heavy, riff based, and blues influenced, but one thing that is a very important part of our music is the balance that we have between structured riffing and song writing on the one hand and improvisation and jamming on the other. Both things are important to us and we try to strike a balance between them. We also really believe in the importance of the groove, and, above all, we try to make music that grooves and feels organic and earthy. I think that some heavy music has lost that important primal element of funkiness and groove that originally came from the blues, and, which was really also a key part of the early days of heavy rock and metal. Listen to early Sabbath and it’s inescapable. That’s the roots of it all, and we try to keep that tradition going in our music.
I’m always curious to hear how others describe our…
“Anger and frustration can be really great vehicles to propel momentum and energy in music,” confesses Erik Wunder. He’s done precisely that with his two seemingly dissimilar projects. The sprawling progressive black metal of Cobalt and the potent dark Americana of Man’s Gin may occupy two different sonic spheres, yet they share the same sense of authentic, if bleak intensity. Erik’s latest accomplishment as Man’s Gin is aptly titled Rebellion Hymns. Adroitly elaborating on the outfit’s previous output, the album represents another resounding triumph for the Colorado native, ranking among the most powerful artistic statements in music this year. Here’s an in-depth interview that not only sheds light on the oeuvre of this immensely talented artist, but also depicts him as a fulfilled musician who’s genuinely committed to every endeavor he’s involved in.
I’ve always admired musicians who are able to divide their time between different projects. What was the reason behind forming Cobalt, and what motivated you to form Man’s Gin?
Well, Cobalt started out when Phil and I got back together and started working on new music after our previous band had broken up. We are both pretty intense, angry people. Especially in those days.
We had already been playing in bands together since we were young teenagers, playing punk/crust and metal music, so we already had a working relationship and obviously a friendship. Our prior projects had dissolved, with…
Antlered Man won me over last year with their debut full-length Giftes Parts 1 & 2. The London four-piece has an uncanny knack for combining dexterous heavy rock with decidedly Eastern melodicism. Their music has been likened to System Of A Down, Mr. Bungle and Future Of The Left, capitalizing on creativity rather than stale song structures. The band’s genre-bending tendencies find their presence felt on “GDZ.” The track integrates the massive walls of distortion with sudden moments of relief and an infectious bridge midway through, proving that Antlered Man can be irresistibly catchy in their wildly experimental output. Both gargantuan in scope and highly infectious, “GDZ” is a fantastic indicator of what’s going to follow on the outfit’s upcoming album The Devil Is Them set to be released on October 14th through New Heavy Sounds. Stream and download the song for free via bandcamp.
After hearing about the possibility of a new No-Man record coming up soon, I contacted Tim Bowness (singer, songwriter) to ask him about his latest projects, personal favorites and the new album in the works. For those unaccustomed to Bowness’ discography, he has released (besides No-Man of course, which started as a main project all the way back in 1987, with Steven Wilson) a myriad of collaborative records such as Flame (with Richard Barbieri), California, Norfolk (with Peter Chilvers), Warm Winter (with Giancarlo Erra of Nosound, under the moniker Memories Of Machines) or his latest, the second Henry Fool record, Men Singing, among many others. He has also released a solo album, entitled My Hotel Year, in 2004 and is in charge of Burning Shed, an independent record label.
- You have been active for over three decades in the music industry now. How much has the music world changed in your opinion? What do you like and dislike about these changes?
In some respects, it’s changed massively. The business of music and the technology involved in making it are almost unrecognizable from the early 1980s when I started.
In terms of recording, it’s been a change for the better. Studios can do more yet are far simpler to operate. The technology allows a much more direct way of capturing ideas.
The shifts on the business side have meant that it’s become harder to make a living from music for many people and that music itself has…
Swedish outfit Goatess may have just released their debut album on Svart Records, but they’re all experienced musicians. Most notably, vocalist Chritus Linderson has made a name for himself, performing with such renowned doom metal acts as Saint Vitus and Lord Vicar. The eponymous full-length release from Goatess fuses the meandering tempo of doom metal with stoner rock-channeling grooves and psychedelic vibes to great effect. Granted, this Sleep and Electric Wizard inspired style is hardly anything new, yet the album makes a profound impact mainly due to the strong vocal performance of Linderson. His traditionally melodic croons often lend the music its memorable quality. “Alpha Omega” is one of the record’s undoubted highlights, perefectly encapsulating the quartet’s desire to capture the all-consuming power of elephantine riffs.
The second full-length record from French metallic noise rockers Sofy Major, Idolize, is a testament to the trio’s perseverance. On October 29th, hurricane Sandy destroyed the Brooklyn studio in which the outfit was going to track, annihilating all the recording equipment and instruments. After a couple of days they luckily managed to start recording with the invaluable help of producer Andrew Schneider and Dave Curran of Unsane’s fame. The result is an aptly furious endeavour that encapsulates the feeling of powerlessness really well. Full of pummeling bass lines, dense drumming and sludgy riffs, this record is at once unabashedly groovy and punishing, showcasing the trio’s knack for crafting off-kilter noise rock that doesn’t steer clear of unexpected flourishes. Idolize is streaming over at Sofy Major’s bandcamp page.
Ryan Clark (bass), Paul Astick (vocals / guitar), Rob Stephens (guitar), Steve Wilson (drums)
Leeds-based heavy rockers Hawk Eyes are about to release their brand new four-track EP on August 19th. The quartet’s potent mesh-up of post-hardcore, sludge metal and alt rock landed their latest full-length Ideas the top spot on my 2012 year-end list. With the new fan-funded release, they do not disappoint either. Produced by Andy Hawkins, That’s What ThisIs further develops the quartet’s winning formula. The numbers are still disarmingly clever and noisy, except the hooks are even grander, the melodies even more powerful, and Paul Astic’s vocals vastly improved. Hawk Eyes are most definitely going in a more accessible direction, yet there’s enough songwriting dexterity on display to make their integrity intact. This short EP whets the appetite nicely before the outfit’s next full-length.
Cheap is a great indicator of what is going to follow. While the track is not nearly as melodic as the remaining cuts, it juxtaposes mathy verses with an abrasive noise-rock chorus and spaced-out bridge to thrilling effect.
Steve Roberts (drums, keys) / Darran Charles (vocals, guitars, keys) / Dan Nelson (bass)
Wales-based Godsticks is one of the best new progressive rock groups. The trio’s unique symbiosis of jazz fusion, rock and pop is in a class by itself. Their second full length The Envisage Conundrum continues to expand on the outfit’s style, embracing a heavier sonic approach while retaining the distinctly melodic qualities of their excellent debut. I’ve approached Darran Charles (vocals, guitars, keys) and the new member of the band, Dan Nelson (bass) to discuss the process of putting the new album together, their inspirations, future plans, and more.
- As most SputnikMusic users may not be familiar with Godsticks, could you tell us how your musical path started? What inspired you to play progressive rock in the first place?
Darran: I don’t think we ever had a plan to play a specific kind of music, and even today we never attempt to write in any particular style. I think categories are forced upon bands for marketing purposes which, to be honest, can be quite helpful to the potential listener.
We formed around 2006 after I placed in an advert around the local music shops, advertising for musicians who were interested in playing some 70s-inspired fusion music. As you can imagine, the response was a little underwhelming but eventually a local bass player by the name of Jason Marsh (the…
I’ve recently interviewed Steve Colca, the frontman for up-and-coming doom metallers, Destroyer Of Light. Hailing from Austin, TX, the outfit released their well-received debut EP last year, and now they’re just about to hit the road for their most extensive tour to date.
Could you tell me how your musical path started? What inspired you to play music in the first place?
When I was younger, my sister’s ex boyfriend left his CDs, and I took them because he never came back. In that pile was Alice in Chains – Dirt. At this time, I hadn’t heard anything so melodic, dark, and heavy; it blew my mind. Jerry Cantrell’s guitar work inspired me to head into a heavy music direction. So, my sister’s now husband gave me his first ever guitar, and I started to write my own songs until I finally found my voice.
I know that you’d played in the stoner metal project before you formed Destroyer Of Light which is a traditional doom metal affair. What inspired you to change your style?
Poor Bastards Revolt! was old high school friends that had great chemistry and enjoyed playing with each other. We wrote some cool songs and we had a lot of fun. In fact, PBR was the first band that I started doing vocals in, before that I was just a rhythm guitar player.…
Wellington-based Beastwars are already a powerful force in the realm of sludge metal. The quartet’s second full-length Blood Becomes Fire continues the path taken by their audacious debut with the colossal sound that makes their contemporaries look insignificant by comparison. On top of that, the album is told through the eyes of a dying traveller from another time who finds the contemporary world destroyed, which places the band’s style in an intriguing futuristic context. I’ve recently approached Nathan Hickey who plays the drums for Beastwars. We’ve discussed such issues as the origin of the band, the process of putting out the new record, internet piracy and the new means of music distribution among others.
As most SputnikMusic users may not be familiar with Beastwars, could you tell us how your musical path started? What inspired you to play sludge metal in the first place?
Me and Clayton (Anderson, guitarist) met in a bar and formed a friendship over red wine and stoner rock. We wanted to form a band that sounded a bit like Kyuss, but with the big hooks of The Cult. When James (Woods, bass) and Matt (Hyde, vocals) joined that plan went totally out the window. James’ massively distorted tone shaped the sound of the band just as much as Matts vocals did. We pushed harder, played louder and it all came out heavier than we had imagined it would. We were just 4 guys that…
The French trio Blaak Heat Shujaa certainly know how to capture the laid-back vibe of California on their new full-length The Edge Of An Era (Tee Pee). The band delivers psychedelic desert rock that’s equally indebted to the Eastern mysticism of Om and the groove-laden jamming of Kyuss. After all, the record was produced by Scott Reader himself, and it makes for a trippy, if at times overly familiar ride.
The song that clearly stands out amid the haze is penultimate “Pelham Blue.” The tune sees the trio collaborating with legendary Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson’s fame. Needless to say, it’s sheer bliss. The style of the band superbly complements Lalli’s dreamy vocals and trippy imagery, which momentarily bring to mind the best Fatso Jetson songs. Lalli’s knack for crafting spellbinding melodies is in a class by itself, and Blaak Heat Shujaa accompany his performance with their most evocative intrumental work to date. The effect isone of the most ravishing songs of the year. Don’t forget to breathe, don’t forget to open your eyes…
Double Disco Animal Style has completely taken me by surprise. Practically unknown Paris-based Loading Data teamed up with renowned producer Alain Johannes only to churn out one of the most distinctive desert rock releases of the last couple of years. It’s supremely produced, groove-laden heavy rock that just reeks of unadulterated fun. That’s why, I’ve seized the opportunity to interview the mastermind of the band, Patrón.
For SputnikMusic users who’ve never heard of Loading Data, how would you describe your style?
It’s definitely rock. It’s groovy. It’s sexy. It’s dark at times, much lighter at others. Heavy riffs, catchy riffs, melodies. I insist on melodies. We’ve always been too heavy for a pop audience, and too pop for metalheads. Our sound is heavy but we have melodies. Nothing symphonic, just good old melodies like The Beach Boys or The Beatles who knew how to write them. I regret that in this musical genre a lot of people forget how important melody is. Headbanging to heavy riffs is fine, and you can do it to some of our songs, but being able to whistle tunes is what I go for.
I’d love to hoist up this type of music out of the stereotypes of the genre. I’d love to have a sexy crowd, well groomed, not just metalheads and hardrockers. We should give out tuxedos and three piece suits at the entrance of our shows, and have free hairdressers as well. …