When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
1. What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Paul: I think I’ve got a similar story to your Kiss story. When I was fourteen I was on a trip with my Dad and we went to this antique shop. I found a box full of cassette tapes in the back of the shop and after I was done rifling around in it I held in my hands my musical epiphany. Metallica's "Ride the Lightning".
When I put it in my tape player it was already on "Call of Ktulu". I had never heard anything so evil sounding. There was wind whipping and shreddy solos and evil evil riffs. The song sounded like it came from an ancient time and every time I heard it I imagined a different scenario that this song could be a soundtrack for. I listened to that tape until it was too scratchy to play. I still have it in a most secret place.
Jordan: It was in the twilight of my middle school days that my brother returned from studying his studio art classes at college with a handful of cassettes he had made for me. In that particular moment, I was exposed to a variety of music that was all new and unexpected, but nothing was as bizarre as Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. At first I did not know what to think, but just looking at the album artwork was enough to intrigue my young mind. The album stayed with me through high school and I would listen to it frequently on the long drives to and from school. I even fell asleep listening to it for a while. It was like jumping into a washing machine and letting the whole cycle run its course until I lost track of where I was. I enjoyed that sensation of being lost and coming back to everyday life.
Marie: Definitely Black Sabbath’s, Master of Reality for me. When I was almost 15, my friend gave me a couple of copied cassette tapes at school. I happened to get really ill at that time and I was at home sick for a week or so, bedridden, reading “On a Pale Horse” a book in the Piers Anthony series, Incarnations of Immortality. I’d rock out my walkman to Master of Reality, Paranoid and Metallica’s S/T and my mind would completely be free of being stuck at home in bed being sick. My favourites were “Orchid”, “Solitude” and “After Forever”. It also made me want to play guitar a lot better than I was. I had just picked up classical guitar at school.
2. Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Paul: Rifffs. Gotta have the riffs first. Somebody has a riff and then we all learn that riff. Then we say "uhh... And then uhh... It kinda goes like this.... Uhh... Duh nuh nuh duh nuh nuh nananana nuh nuh nuh". The lyrics come last.
Jordan: Let’s not forget the irresistible urge to throw in a squeal or a sparkle here and there with a dash of space travel. Occasionally the song comes together as a complete package with the riffs, but for the most part, we arrange various guitar riffs together and play with making the transitions interesting and the movement from one to the other varied. We enjoy mixing things up and trying to make it interesting, but we leave space in every song for a guitar solo to lead us onward and upward.
Marie: For me writing is mostly harnessing the movie playing in my head and trying to make it come alive with music, with guitar melodies or riffs. Somehow describing the imagery with sound. So the idea comes first, next the root riffs, melodies and solos, then lyrics last.
3. Who has influenced you the most?
Paul: Randy Rhoads
Marie: Tony Iommi
Aaron: Dave Grohl
Jordan: Phil Lynott
4. Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Paul:I like to see what's going on now. A Lot of influences come from local bands. I also have a buddy named Nathaniel who’s always dredging up some old great records and then playing them for me.
Jordan: I find that being surrounded by other musicians in my hometown means that I’m constantly being exposed to new music. Whether it’s music that they play or find, I always have someone telling me to check something out. We live in a time rich with much music that’s easy to access and listen to online. Personally, I’m looking backwards for inspiration rather than keeping up with the latest sounds and modern trends.
Marie: I like to discover bands from the 60’s and 70’ that I don’t know anything about, underground or otherwise. I also am interested in what my musician friends listen to, what they find interesting. Other than that, I try to challenge my own likes and dislikes, always looking for new territory within my own headspace world.
5. How has it been to be a woman in a traditional male role in a hard rock band, particularly as a guitarist?
Marie: Not that bad actually! Jordan, Aaron and Paul have always been supportive. Paul has been such a great inspiration and coach (though he would probably deny any part of it) and has consistently been very encouraging of my playing, even when it is questionable what I’m playing or how I’m playing it. Other than that, I don’t really try to think about it too much, I’ve battled being nervous playing in front of primarily male audiences despite being able to shred pretty hard. I just focus on playing well and most of the anxiousness dissipates. I mean, it’s not like I’m the boring two chord strumming girl in the band, thankfully... and it feels pretty good to surprise people. Playing a festival last summer with another band I play in, Borrowed Beams of Light, the sound guy came up to me after the set and said “Wow, you really rocked. I just wanna come clean and say that I had immediately pigeonholed you for a shitty one chord strumming guitarist and had you turned down pretty far in the mix until I noticed your fingers moving. Then I turned you WAY up in the mix. WOW, you are amazing!! I’ll never stereotype female guitarists again!” True story.
6. What is your musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
Aaron: I try to get the audience to feel what I feel, writing the parts, it has to compliment the music, and the dynamics have to work. Once that works, the beats have to be heavy and as honest as possible.
Jordan: We try to give the audience a sense of adventure and excitement while detaching ourselves from everyday life and rocking out to otherworldly ideas through the scope of being a human. I want the people to feel good and leave wanting to get out there and do the right thing. You know, I want the audience to feel empowered and righteous, but with a slightly disoriented state.
Marie: I want the audience to “see” with their ears.
7. Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Jordan: Funny you should mention Spinal Tap because for Halloween in 2010, we played a show as Spinal Tap, dressed and in character. If you want, you can see video footage of this on our website www.skykrakken.com (click on “visuals” then “footage”). It was a blast to become them for a night. Paul is a marvelous player/actor. If you watch through til the end, you’ll even get a guitar lesson from him as Nigel Tufnel.
As for our own moments of absurdity, we once played a blistering set in Washington D.C. at The Velvet Lounge for my buddy, Darryl, and Paul’s friend, Allison.They were both thrilled. As was the sound guy. The bartender and the door guy, not so much because they found themselves twiddling their thumbs and casting rotten glares about the room. Granted, it was a Sunday night, but the local turnout left much to be desired on any given night. We left without bothering to talk about money or shut the back hatch properly, so as we pulled away, out shot Aaron’s snare drum as well as Marie’s 1976 Les Paul Custom. AAAHHHHH! Luckily, no one ran over them and the cases did what they were supposed to do. The icing on the cake came a few weeks later, when Paul received a ticket in the mail with a photo as a reminder of the strange face he made while accidentally running a red light in our nation’s capitol.
Marie: There was that time a few years ago, in Manhattan, at a certain club, upon arrival for loading in, we all needed to use the toilet pretty badly. We’d been in the van a looong time and had been drinking a lot of coffee if you get my drift. Me first, Jordan, Paul and our buddy Nicholas I think. The barman lit a whole bunch of incense sticks and waved them about the club for a good 10 minutes. Needless to say, I was terribly embarrassed.
8. What makes a great song?
Jordan: Suspense, tension, explosions, adventure, an eye in the storm, and genuine lyrics. I’m constantly blown away by songs that make something very complex seem simple. If you can strip a song down to one or two elements and it still holds its own, then you have a well written song. Whether it be a riff, melody, or rhythm, the essence of a song from which everything else grows has to be great on its own to make a great song.
Marie: A killer solo. Maybe with a harmonized part?
9. After three independent releases, you recently signed on with Shadow Kingdom. How'd that come about?
Jordan: It wasn’t until our third independent release of the self-titled album that we received an email from Tim McGrogan. We had grown in the studio to the point that we could engineer, mix, produce, and package by ourselves with hand-screen printed packaging. Our model was simply to make the record, have a release show, and mail the album to reviewers to see what would happen. We generated enough buzz to catch Tim’s watchful eye as he keeps vigil over the world of metal’s past, present, and future. He liked what he heard and bought a few copies of all three independent releases. A week or two passed and he emailed us again with greater excitement, wanting to schedule a conference call to get a better sense of what we do and if we wanted to sign a contract. We were very pleased with what we discovered online about Shadow Kingdom Records both in what they do and what they represent. Their efforts are an extension of our grassroots beginnings, and I hope that we both benefit in the long run.
10. Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Paul: Mastodon and Baroness. They have such an awesome mix of heavy and beautiful.
Marie: Tame Impala, Dungen, Mogwai, Baroness, Valkyrie and Naked Gods..
Tame Impala have always hit a groove with me, I like them very much, they are in the same category for me as Dungen who I’ve seen live in our hometown and I’ve been a fan of for years and years. I think Tame Impala are coming through Virginia in February so I’ll try to see them then.
Mogwai, whom I also saw live in Charlottesville this year, are fantastic and loud, they kept my attention seriously fixed for the entire set and when it was over, I said to myself, “Already?!?!” It felt like it just started.
Baroness, again, I saw live opening for the Deftones in Richmond, VA. Shockingly emotive and very energetic and captivating. Yellow and Green is my favourite album because it is so colourful and expressive in many different veins. Kicking ass the whole way.
On that note, I also very much enjoy the music of Valkyrie, from the Harrisonburg area of Virginia. I’ve been following that band’s music for a couple of years now and I really enjoy their music, through and through, always a pleasure to hear.
Naked Gods are from Boone, NC and I first saw them at Macrock 2011 (Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference) at James Madison University and I instantly fell in love. Superb musicianship and song-writing and exceptional stage presence not to mention really swell guys.
Jordan: I’m gonna throw a curveball here and say Cody Chesnutt. He’s been low on the radar, but I’ve been a fan for about ten years or so. I think his songwriting is extremely genuine and honest with a quirky worldview. He digs deep and gives expression to some of our hidden secrets that we sometimes fail to recognize or admit.
11. What's next for the band?
Jordan: First and foremost, the self-titled album will be released by Shadow Kingdom Records on January 21st. We are currently working on new material and will be headed back into the studio in late January to lay down and develop the tunes. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next for the band in 2013.
Marie: Record the new album then work on shredding on some solos for the album. That takes the longest and is the most exciting part for me.
12. Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Aaron: Cd, just cause I love to order off of amazon.
Marie: Vinyl. I’d love for our S/T to be put on vinyl. Then digital. I haven’t put a cd in a cd player in eons.
Jordan: Vinyl sounds and looks the best and gives you something tangible to sink into while listening to an album. There’s a dying habit or appreciation of putting a record on for the first time while examining the details of the artwork and information. I think it makes a stronger bond to the music. I also appreciate the accessibility that digital media offers and realize that it is the primary source of modern music consumption.
13. Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
Paul: I have to go beer because I’ve gotten beat up too many times drinking liquor.....oh AlcoPaul...
Marie: Whiskey if I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything too serious anytime soon. Playing a gig I maybe allow one whiskey drink but it is tough to play complicated notey material when you’re a little too loosey goosey.
Jordan: Whiskey hits the right spots, from the back of the throat to the pit of the belly, somehow settling in the cheeks after running back up the spine. It’s tough to drink it on the night of a show with the hours of down time. It hits you fast and leaves you wanting more, which is a recipe for sloppy fingers, at least in my case.
14. We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
Marie: Charlottesville, Virginia and your first stop is Melody Supreme, a vinyl only record store. My good Frenchy friend Gwen runs the store, has a great selection of hard to find, rare and unusual records. He also re-ordered me the Baroness Yellow and Green album when it sold out. Also, Gwen has a great accent.
Jordan: I second that!
15. Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Jordan: I’m blown away by the level of involvement and participation by the online metal community. These definitely aren’t the average fans and go beyond to think for themselves and give the music thoughtful criticism. The music then has a separate entity online to exist in another context outside the speaker box, and this helps us to learn about what’s happening beyond the walls of our practice space and the comfort of our hometown.
Marie: Thanks for the interview, thanks for supporting us and supporting under-the-radar music, there is so much out there waiting to be discovered.