Monday, August 12, 2013

The Folks Behind the Music - Lucas Klaukien - Paranoid Hitsophrenic


A new column featuring on the folks who make it their life to spread the word on good music.  Today, Lucas Klaukien, Freelance Writer at The Sludgelord, Stoner HiVe, and the progenitor of Paranoid Hitsophrenic-- home of the Doom Charts and Super Doom Charts!

Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of writing about music?

The beginning wasn’t all that long ago.  Most of last year (2012) I was working on this story about a band that plays this brand new kind of music that I discovered called Doom Metal.  Obviously, I was really inspired creatively by the music and once it was time to put that story aside, I wanted to keep writing, so I decided to just write about these great albums I was discovering.  I got into reviewing knowing there were dozens of other writers and reviewers doing it already, but I just wanted to lend a voice to the chorus, even if it was just a voice in the wilderness, I wanted to show my support.  I had never written a review before I started my blog so I had to try to learn how to do it on the fly.  I still learn something new every time I review a record.  I doubt that will ever change.

We're all the product of our musical past. What's your musical history? First album you ever bought? First musical epiphany moment? First album that terrified the hell out of you?

I’ve twisted and turned down nearly every stretch of the popular music highway at one point or other.  I grew up at a time when classic rock was just starting to become not so classic anymore.  Let’s not kid ourselves revisionists: the eighties was a bleak time for popular music.  I think the ‘problem’ for me was getting a taste of some of the early extreme metal albums my younger uncles were listening to at the time and so nothing in the mainstream ever seemed good enough, or fast enough, or heavy enough for me.  I always loved music, I used to sing into the curtain rod before I could talk (and there’s photographic evidence of this), but almost everything I was hearing on the radio was utter garbage, it just wasn’t good enough.  Then grunge hit and it was like a breath of fresh air.  I think I was about 9 years old or something when Pearl Jam and all those bands first started getting played on the radio and it was like, “finally, some good bands”. 

Before long of course, the ‘scene’ got over-saturated with knock-offs so I detoured into Wu-Tang Clan and rap music.  But I didn’t dress or talk any different than I normally did.  Anyway, later on, you want to find the original funk and soul songs the rap producers were using so that becomes a whole other musical avenue to go down.  Then you get back into the live instrumental sound and feel of those old Parliament records instead of the dead programmed beats, bass tubes and synths of rap.  So being a teenager and full of hormones and aggression you get back into metal again and finally re-discover that extreme side of things.  After mellowing out a bit I became obsessed with the Beatles and that obsession got parlayed into a general obsession with all things British psychedelic.  I think I’ve heard about 75 percent of all British psychedelic 45s that came out between 1967-69.  Around April or May of 2012 I discovered Doom and Stoner, etc. and began exploring this underground world in earnest.

What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?

There’s this band out of Sweden called Head of the Demon.  They play what I guess you could call Blackened Doom.  It’s unlike anything else in my music library and I still can’t stop listening to it.  It’s super atmospheric and there’s something almost scary about it.  I guess listening to that album is like watching a good horror movie or reading an awesome horror comic so I keep going back to it.

What do you see happening in the music scene today, good and bad?

There’s a lot of both.  The good is the music that’s coming out right now which is honestly … heavy music has rarely been better than it is right now in my opinion, but I’ve got to think that today’s economic climate is only bad for bands and artists in general and things will only get worse in the long run.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the internet’s impact on art and culture in general and in the balance, you have to think it’s a negative one.  Why would Peter Porker of West Ham, New York schlep his way to the city, fight traffic, fight crowds, etc to go grab one $20 CD when he can just stay at home and download 20 albums for free?  It makes no sense for him to do all that unless it’s an issue of principal and very few people are principled in that way.  So it kind of sets up this weird cottage industry where only musicians are supporting musicians out of mutually understood sympathy.  I have no idea what the end game of it all is, but I’m sorry to say it doesn’t look good right now for people wanting to make any kind of living out of their passion.  The good side of this climate I believe is that, because there’s no money in it, it will weed out the phonies, the people who aren’t really in it for expression or what have you, the kind of person who insists that the band needs to sound more like Nickelback because that’s what’s popular right now, etc.  You know the type, we’ve all dealt with those people.

With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do? What's your unique take on the music and writing?

All I can really try to do to separate myself from the pack is try to be a better writer all the time, try to write a better review than the one I did last time, that’s about all I can control.  The one big thing that I have going for my site though are the Doom Charts which are very popular and are a lot of fun to do.  I do my own top 25 songs and top 30 albums lists based on my own opinion but I try to do an actual chart whereby some 30 or so other reviewers, radio hosts, etc in the field of doom send me their lists of what they’re digging and I compile the results.  Being something of a pop culture junkie I hope to preserve these charts as an important document of a snippet of time.  Imagine if someone had gone around to the different juke joints of the Mississippi delta in the 1930s and compiled a chart of the most popular blues records every month?  How invaluable would that information be to someone, maybe not to everyone, but to someone?  The most important thing I’ve tried to do with the Doom Charts is create a real community feeling among the folks behind the scenes of these music sites, stations and labels.

Illegal free downloads on your site. Yes or no, and why?

Absolutely not.  If the music literally cost nothing to record, produce and promote, I would see nothing wrong with doing it [illegal free downloads].  It’s as though some people think things just magically appear fully formed out of a vacuum for their own amusement.  The world has never worked like that.  These things cost money, investments require returns, and so on.  It just makes sense, if you like it, buy it, support the artist.  Chances are he’s just a dude with a shitty ass job just like you and you throwing a couple dollars the band’s way is all the encouragement he needs to keep going.  There may actually be a billion little good reasons to buy music: help support your local economy, go to a show, buy some merch, go to the shops, etc.

What's been your all time greatest "Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?

I honestly don’t know whether or not that’s ever happened.

If you could write a 1,000 word essay on one song, which one would it be, and why? What makes that song so important?

That would probably be “Strawberry Fields Forever”.  It just may be the greatest pop song of all-time and there’s just so much to be said about it.  I was stuck at a bus stop for over an hour just last night and I was thinking about this very question really, even though I hadn’t read these questions yet.  Weird how life is sometimes.  I was thinking, ‘I could probably write a book about “Strawberry Fields Forever”.  It would be a short book.’

Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.

Ice Dragon, Moon Curse and Blizaro are all really special bands.  Really special.

Tell us about your personal music collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?

I’m not a vinyl guy, it’s too expensive and it’s not portable.  I don’t mind my digital downloads.  I’m not an audiophile, I listen to a lot of piss poor recordings so I don’t care if the music is tinny or muddy or crackly or whatever.  I’ve got a fairly decent sized CD collection of doom and stoner stuff already just since discovering the genre in the last year and a half or so, it’s probably over 300 CDs already.  My prized possession is either my ‘Real Life Permanent Dreams’ box set which I got for … fairly cheap on ebay but runs for a way too expensive $150 or so on Amazon, (when it’s even available) or my Blizaro ‘Blak Majicians’ CD, which was only available at Days of the Doomed fest last summer.  I messaged the band and bought a copy from them directly and the album is unbelievably awesome.  Also, I’m pretty proud of my Tentacle ‘Void Abyss’ CD.  Oh, and my Chains ‘Of Death’ CD (only 10 copies made!).

What makes it all worthwhile for you?

Well, it’s time to start the campfire, break out the acoustic guitar and smores because without a doubt, the thing that keeps driving me forward is the relationships I’ve made with people since starting the blog.  Again, there is a bit of a community feel that I try to foster with my fellow writers, the bands and musicians and even readers.  Every now and then someone will leave a little comment somewhere saying something simple like, “great review,” or something but it really makes my day every time.  That’s reward enough.  But I also love the occasional free t-shirts that go along with the gig!

How would your life be different if you weren't writing about music?

So much of what I’m working on now has sprung from the blog in one way or another that it’s scary to think about what my life would be like right now without it.  If nothing else doing the blog has given me a new found confidence in and perspective on my writing that I never had before.

Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?

No, nothing like that yet.  It’s been an almost totally positive experience from day one.

In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?

I would like, ten or twenty years down the road for people to say, “remember that weirdo who did those Doom Charts?” “Yeah those were great, whatever happened to that guy?” “Meh, who cares.” “Yeah.  Them Doom Charts was cool though.”  That would be boss.

Many people may not realize the hours you devote to what you do for little or no pay. Is there a day job? If so, how do you find the balance?

There is no balance.  I work nights, in a warehouse, full-time, Monday to Friday.  Nearly every spare second I get I try to put into my writing, because to me, it’s a possible way out of that hell of working.  The job I have is not the worst job, not by far, but it’s just the fact of having that kind of job or that kind of obligation when all you want to do is write and/or spend time with the significant other that makes it seem like hell at times.  My writing is like a spoon and every day I’m grinding and chipping my way out of that job, my prison.  That means thinking all the time about what to do and how to do it, then doing it, gathering ideas, pulling out the notebook on work breaks or on the bus just to drag that extra moment’s productivity out of the day.  I’ll work right through dinner when I need to.  Typically I get 5 hours sleep a night, but I’ve been getting a bit more sleep lately, and that’s been good for me.  Even to my own ears though, that doesn’t sound like too balanced a lifestyle, and I’m the one doing it!

What's next? Any new projects?

Aside from Paranoid Hitsophrenic I’ve got something exciting in development with another rock n roll / doom reviewer.  I don’t want to say too much about it right now except that we are hoping to branch out into print for this thing.  I’m currently outlining my first ever attempt at a non-fiction book and it’s about ten times the amount of work I thought it would be, which is actually a pleasant surprise because it gives me a lot of fun stuff to work on.  Also, I’m always looking for some like-minded artists to work with on some ideas for a possible comic book or this other print thing that I mentioned a second ago.  Seriously, if you’re an artist and you can do comics, get in touch with me.

Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?

My girlfriend of the past 7 years, Karmen.

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