Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Ripple Conversation With Damon Caraway Of Gravitoyd Presents

Let's start with your name and your site.  Let's have it.

Damon Caraway
Facebook@gravitoyd presents

Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of promoting music?  How has it grown and changed over the years?

That’s a relatively short story. I had known Buddy Hachar, from Greenbeard, for a few years, as a fan first then later as friends.

Last year I turned 50 and I decided I wanted a live show for my birthday. I asked Greenbeard if they would play it and they absolutely did. That was my first show, ha ha! Since then I’ve done about twenty shows and one two day festival called Stoner Daze. I have plans of following that up next year as well. As far as change, I haven’t been booking long enough to notice yet.

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?

My first album was Fun Rock by Ronco, lol! I was 6 I think? After that I was a pretty big John Denver fan. My dad is a huge Buddy Holly fan so I heard a lot of that growing up. He also turned me onto ZZ Top and the Eagles. My first serious album I bought was KISS Alive! That was my first musical redirect. From there I filled in quickly with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and the rest of the classic rock genre.

Listening to Kiss Alive at my friends 9th birthday party was my first musical epiphany. I mean John Denver played guitar but not like Ace and Paul! A few years later though, Rush Moving Pictures popped up on a tv commercial and I was blown away by their sound, I still am.

The first album that terrified me? Slayer Reign in Blood. I had never heard lyrics that evil before. If the music hadn’t been so damn good I wouldn’t have become a fan. Now that’s one of my favorite albums-top ten.

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

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sleep’s “The Sciences” that’s so good! However, Eagle Twin “The Thundering Herd” just cold-cocked me the first time I heard it. I really like that album.

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

I don’t stray to far from the heavier side of music but the “good” I see is the massive onslaught of good heavy music coming out now. All of these bands are touring to promote their new albums too so whether I book it or not I get to see a lot of really good shows.

The “bad” that I see is bands that leave their home scene to tour too early and it ends up costing them money. Also bands that don’t have a Bandcamp account or a Facebook band page in 2018, really?

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

Well, I’ve been telling people about Greenbeard and Crypt Trip ever since I saw them play together about three years ago, but Mortales is my new “check these guys out” band. They’re from my stomping grounds, Austin, and they are killing the stage every time.

What's the hardest thing you encounter in promoting shows?

The number one issue is getting people to check out bands that aren’t national known. There are so many potential fans that just don’t do local shows. It’s a head scratcher, who wouldn’t want to catch a band before they make it big? I know most bands won’t make it big but if I had a chance to go back in time, that’s all I would do- check out Hendrix when he played with Cream in ‘66 or Grand Funk when they opened for Zeppelin and Zeppelin’s manager literally pulled the electrical plug mid-show because they were killing it too good! Hell, one of my fondest memories is getting to see Metallica, with Cliff, open for Ozzy in ‘86 and blowing Ozzy away!

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?

Iron Maiden’s “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.” My senior year in high school (I hated it) I had to choose an epic poem to write about. Power Slave had just hit the shelves and I was already a huge Maiden fan. I asked my teacher if I could do “Rhyme” and she lit up! I hadn’t been a good high school student at all, so this was quite a shock. I said I would do it if I could play the song for the class. She eagerly agreed not knowing anything about Iron Maiden or heavy metal! It was stellar! The song quotes multiple lines in the poem and as I spotted these I gained a profound respect for their writing ability and their literary depth. It’s just a badass story anyway but I wouldn’t have known that without Bruce and the boys.

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

I’ve already mentioned Mortales. They’re a stoner style band lightly seasoned with a sprinkle of punk.

I just booked Gallivant, from Omaha, last month and was very impressed. Their stage presence was damned impressive.

The one I would start a label on though, if I had the money is another Austin band called Bridge Farmers. They have a very heavy very original sound that I never tire of. They cover Pink Floyd’s “Nike Song” off of the “More” soundtrack.

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

I gave away a few hundred cassettes a few years ago because I never liked cassettes and I don’t own a car that has a cassette player anymore. My first cd was Dark side of the moon in 1989. I still have it and about 300 cds that range from classic rock to what the metal scene was doing in 2010 when I bought my last cd that wasn’t a local band. Monster Magnet “Spine of God” and Fudge Tunnel “Hate Songs in E minor” are my pride and joy of the cds. Spotify is usually what I listen to in the car now but I’ll occasionally grab a fist of cds for a road trip. I just started getting back into vinyl about 4 years ago. I still had some from my adolescence and my wife has a collection of classic rock that I’ll put up against anyone’s as far as quality of selection goes. Combined were a little over 400 vinyl and growing. My favorites are the obscure ones and I love the hunt of these rare gems as well. Bands like Atomic Rooster, Josefus, Frigid Pink, Dust, you know, the early seventies sound? That’s what gets me off. My prized possession is ZZTop’s “First Album.” You can’t beat “Brown Sugar” and that’s a band my dad and I connected over, so I didn’t mind paying $20 for that when I found it.

What is it about this particular type of heavy music that makes it mean so much to you?

Metal was an outlet for me, like a lot of people, for anger. I loved the violent attack and really connected with it. I think my classic rock background instilled in me an appreciation for musical skill which likely guided me more toward metal than say, punk. I’m a big fan of today’s doom and stoner sound (40 years ago stoner was called hard rock) largely because of their musical roots are grounded heavily in the late sixties/early seventies that was created by bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and many other lesser known bands. This is rock before it Bacar too commercialized.

What makes it all worthwhile for you?

The reason I started promoting was because I noticed there were a lot of local bands wanting to play that weren’t and there were live music venues that had nights without live music. I noticed the disconnect and started talking to Buddy Hachar about it. He said I’d have to make a name for myself before anyone would talk to me.  I decided to start a website that did live music reviews. Greenbeard and Zed were the first two I wrote. I saw that Leanne Ridgeway, of Riff Relevant, was looking for staff writers in the Waveriders Unite group on Facebook and I hit her up. She had finally had enough of my pestering  her that she eventually hired me. I was going to a lot of shows and finally Dusty Brooks, at The Lost Well, gave me my first shot. All of this leads back to the question what makes it worthwhile for me. That would be the sincere smile, handshake, and thank you I get from bands I’ve booked. I feel like this is the kind of “good” I can do and enjoy.

How would your life be different if you weren't spreading the word about music?

I would still be listening to and buying music but I would have more money and I wouldn’t be as tired, lol! My wife says this is my mid-life crisis, but I feel like it’s a calling, it just feels right when I put an awesome bill together, the crowd is digging it, the bands get paid, and I get to see an awesome show too!

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

I’d like to eventually start my own label, but if that doesn’t happen I’d be happy knowing that I helped launch a few bands. That’s not a bad legacy.

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?

I teach English at a high school and a community college here in Austin. Luckily, most of my work is sending emails and texts to put shows together but it takes me late into the night at times. That makes the early starts less fun but I still love it. Promoting shows is the most fun I’ve had in years.

What's next?  Any new projects?

I’ll keep promoting shows until it’s not fun anymore but I don’t foresee that any time soon. I’m starting to think about Stoner Daze 2019 and different ways to improve it.

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

Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion? I like reading science fiction and fantasy books as well as some classics. I will continue to be impressed with Stephen R. Donaldson, Patrick Rothfuss, and Tad Williams.

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