Today's spotlight on Soda Shop and Ripple Scribe, The Grime, also the lead man of rootsy, stoner blues voyagers, The Heavy Co.
Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of writing about music?
I got involved with writing about and reviewing music with The Soda Shop shortly after I started my band, The Heavy Co. Bill Goodman is a righteous dude. Seriously, he is one of the stoner rock blog scenes patron saints, no doubt. His enthusiasm for my band kind of floored me and still does. Through our conversations, I got the notion that I might have some stuff to say about the scene at the time and he was really open to letting me express myself as a writer for The Soda Shop. I got to interview some really awesome people who gave life to the modern stoner/psychedelic/doom/desert/retro/heavy blues music today like Tony Presedo (founder of TeePee Records), Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man), and Scott Reeder (Kyuss) to name a few. After a few articles, my Facebook page blew up with people from all over the world who read my articles and reviews. I had never experienced such a cohesive music scene and I was hooked.
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 don’t think I have ever admitted this before, but the first record I really HAD to have was by a Christian band called Bleach. It’s funny now, but the album was called Space. They were an “alternative” band following in the great post-Nirvana sound. It sounds nothing like a record by the same name would sound today if I pulled it off a blog or something. :) But that’s the truth and super fucked up when I think about it. I was raised in a weirdly conservative christian household and on top of that we were really poor. I had to scrape some money together to get that tape (a CD player was expensive). I really loved that record. It started me down the path of wanting to play rock music with electric guitars.
I burned out on religion and the pre-approved music real quick though. During that time though, I heard some hardcore bands that were HEAVY. One band in particular, Overcome, was the first band that made me reconsider what I called music. They were screamers. I still haven’t heard a band with screamed vocals that connects the way that did. I would listen to the tape on my way to school and kind of worry what people might think if they knew how scary the music I was listening to was.
Along with the conservative Christian upbringing in a small Midwestern town came all of the anti-heavy metal sentiments ala Tipper Gore and the PMRC. There was this propaganda movie where some fucked in the head preacher told every weird lie and association with the occult that he could, but I would watch the video because it had music videos...at least parts of them...from Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe, Iron Maiden, The Beastie Boys, etc. It scared me, but I also got over it. My musical tastes are more refined these days, but it sucked me in for sure. The intro to AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” is still creepy though. Tool and Marilyn Manson were also huge when this was happening to me. I wasn’t a Marilyn Manson fan, still am not, but I was really driven to de-mystify his whole schtick. Things like that affect you really differently when you are 13 then when you are, say, 25. That kind of thing really scared me, but once I saw through it, it helped me to be less fearful of....everything.
I think the moment I knew what kind of sound I wanted to hear, and in turn make, was when my brother busted out the 6 or so CDs that were with the CD player next to the Nintendo at my Dad’s house. On tape we had Sgt. Pepper, which I don’t think I quite understood at the time, and Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, which I absolutely devoured. I still have that tape in my car. It’s a prized possession. There was The Guess Who’s “Best Of”, or whatever it’s called, and a compilation of 70’s rock songs like “Green Eyed Lady” and “Lola”. This all pretty much was all in one weekend. Not to sound ridiculous or too personal, but it was also the last weekend I really ever spoke to my pops. Before he took me home, he gave me his record collection. My brother Aaron is still pissed about that. When you put it all together, I had a new religion and a reason to follow it. I don’t know if it’s working out for me, but I wouldn’t change it.
What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?
Between that and producing the Loretta Lynn album, I had to reconsider my stance on his talent. Before that, I think the last record that I thought was completely amazing was Brothers by The Black Keys. I think it set a standard, or at least re-iterated, for what a rock album can do within pop culture standards. It makes me a little hopeful that *real* rock music might make a come back. I don’t know though. It’s wishful thinking.
What do you see happening in the music scene today, good and bad?
That’s a really broad question. I mainly follow the stoner/doom/psychedelic thing because my band kind of falls in that genre, so I’ll start with that. I’m not really excited about the retro and/or Satan worshipping, bong huffing doom that is a big deal right now. I think Ghost is overrated. Orchid is great...but really? Someone was going to get the Sabbath schtick right on the money, so in that sentiment they are awesome. But I’m bored with it. Kadavar and Uncle Acid are both really great. I especially like the Kadavar record. They are really musical as opposed to bombastic. It just bugs me that a lot of it has to do with the visual appeal of a lot of the bands. If you don’t look like Lemmy’s bastard spawn then you might not be taken seriously. I got into the underground to escape the fashion scene. No one has really called that out yet or maybe even noticed, but I totally think that it is there. Then again, those Swedish dudes can’t help it that they have good genes. The thing is though, five years ago I was ripping on Kyuss knock offs. It’s always going to be something. I just find what I like and stick with it.
On the mainstream front, I think it’s interesting that Country music is competing with the pop singers. That’s a good sign to me. At least singer/songwriters have a fighting chance and the records are made with real musicians. I have to listen to it everyday at work and it’s been that way for 8 years. Whether you like it or not, you can’t deny that someone like Brad Paisley is a bad motherfucker of guitar player.
When I got into the underground stoner/doom thing, I realized that it was a STRONG scene. While I just bitched about bands like Ghost, Orchid, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, and Kadavar, the are all on great record labels that didn’t previously care five to ten years ago. Those are same labels, Nuclear Blast in particular, that has given the world some of the best heavy metal albums to ever be made. I don’t think there is any more money to be had from them (I’m speaking from a musicians standpoint here) but the fan base is growing larger and larger. I’ve watched it grow and that is exciting to me. Even though I wasn’t really, it feels like I got in on the ground floor. I’m waiting to see who breaks through to the next level...a major label. There are a lot of bands that might. There is still a lot of momentum to be gained, but it is definitely keeping a great stride.
The other side of my dislike for the current stoner/doom trend is slightly personal. I got into the scene because there are bands that really hit a cosmic/existential groove, not a heavy earth ride of a drag. I think both trips are important, but I think that there is the potential for band from the modern psychedelic scene to be the next Grateful Dead. What I mean by that is a band that can fucking JAM, but also provides an environment to let people develop deep thoughts that make them realize that some thing can be done better. In the same vein that Jimi was looking for an “electric church”, there are some bands that are the verge of setting up the next round of psychedelic enlightenment. Maybe I’m just a wishful thinker, but Electric Wizard doesn’t scream “It’s going to be ok” at me, you know? Shit is rough. It’s easy to drown in your sorrows and the doom bands (some who I find to be amazing) don’t necessarily provide the right ambience to drag yourself out of what might be, at time, real despair that needs addressed. Maybe that’s a heavy statement or too personal, but that is my personal opinion. It’s the yin and yang idea. We need both, but I’m really looking for alternative at the moment. It seems like the shit has been dragging on a long time. The world could use some good news.
With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do? What's your unique take on the music and writing?
I don’t do anything special. I just try to be honest. If I’m seem to be excited about a record, it’s because I am. The best thing about this little corner of the internet (the independent rock blog scene) is that up and coming bands get feedback where 10 - 15 years ago they couldn’t. It’s leveled out the playing field as much as it can. I know that as a musician, I really appreciate every review. You can count on them for that fact that at least one person took the time to listen and found something they liked, generally speaking. This goes for the upstart and small labels as well. So this is what I do...I try to support. Sure, I have my opinions, but everyone seems to be in it together. I hope it stays that way for a while. Since there is no money, there isn‘ a lot to fight over and it’s a special time in that regards. It is amazing to be a part of a community of music lovers that give a shit and also get along. It’s wonderful and when I started in music, II never thought I’d encounter it. It was just something I read about in books and magazines. I’m a really independent kind person, in general, but I found that I’m apart of a group of people who are like me. We are passionate enough about the music to make it happen, whether it’s starting a band, a blog, a label, a promotions company, or Facebook group. It is the actualization on the promise of Hardcore’s DIY attitude and the grass root efforts of a lot bands in the 90’s.
Illegal free downloads on your site. Yes or no, and why?
Since I don’t run my own site, I’ll just give you my opinion on it. The music lover says...awesome. If it wasn’t for Napster and it’s legacy, I’d be kind of screwed. It has made the whole stoner/doom scene happen in a way it wouldn’t have. I’ve downloaded a lot of records. I’m not necessarily proud of it though, because....
As a musician, it hurts. I watched The Heavy Co.’s Bandcamp sales literally disappear when Midwest Electric went up on the download sites. We gave away, and still do, the first EP. The reaction was AMAZING. It’s been downloaded and listened to ten of thousands of times. That wouldn’t have happened if it we charged for it.
Sooo....it’s a vicious cycle without a real answer. I think it’s a double edged sword for bands, but it would be nice to be able to sell enough records to press the next one. In my case with my band, I just file it under “fair is fair” I’d like to believe in karma or “The Golden Rule” or whatever you want to call it. Obviously it’s great for those who download, but it also is killing the possible longevity for the small bands they download. It’s easy to say “Fuck (INSERT MEGA BAND) and (MEGA LABEL) !!!” because they were rich before digital downloads. Labels like Small Stone or RIpple are much more vulnerable to illegal downloads. It’s the socio-economics of the music scene. It’s just how it is for now. I think that if a record is really great, then you should have no problem paying for it. There is only so many hours in the day, why download more than you can listen to? I know I stopped illegally downloading a while ago and even though I am a poor son of a bitch, I find the dimes to buy the records I really want on vinyl. I have quite a hit list going.
What's been your all time greatest "Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?
Finally an easy one. :) Devil To Pay. They are the reason I came to know the term “Stoner Rock”. It was a breath of fresh air to find a band (WITH BEARDS!!!) that weren’t playing nu-metal or thrash metal. I’m from Lafayette, Indiana and Indianapolis is just down the road. I couldn’t believe that this style of music that made so much sense to me actually existed. I really appreciate those dudes. When they signed to Ripple, I was so happy for them. They finally got to take a step further in the business and they deserve it.
I didn’t start spreading the word on them, but they were the catalyst for me spreading the words about other bands that I found after them.
I got to catch some early Lo-Pa, as well, before they got signed...through DTP shows. So...there you have it.
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?
Shit, another tough one. I’d have to go with “Green Onions” by Booker T. and The MG’s. You can cover a huge part of American and rock and roll history when you start talking about them. Their importance can not be overstated enough, whether you are considering them a symbol of the civil right’s movement or the fact that they literally wrote a huge part of the American rock, soul, and R&B songbook. “Green Onions” is an instrumental, but when I hear it, it always speaks to me. That and you will NEVER find a thicker groove, ever.
Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.
I hate making predictions or talking up a band too much. When I do, they break up or something.
I really enjoy Tumbleweed Dealer. I wouldn’t say they are unique, but they have something going on in their sound that is worth paying attention to. it’s kind of heavy and totally psychedelic. With song titles like “How To Light A Joint With A Blow Torch”, you can really tell that these guys “get it” without taking it too serious.
Jeremy Irons and The Ratgang Malibus just signed to Small Stone Records and are from Sweden. I really enjoyed their last record, Bloom. They are pretty mellow by Small Stone standards. Their singer is one of the few rock singers that can get anywhere near Jeff Buckley’s tone and range. It’s sort of amazing. They are hard to describe...they have a really crystal clear, classic rock/psychedelic sound with a really talented singer. How can you go wrong?
Out of Italy is Pater Nembrot. I ran into them through The Soda Shop’s submission catalogue the same time I found Jeremy Irons and The Ratgang Malibus. I think they are on Go Down Records. Heavy tones and riffs but catchy. Their singer/guitarist, Filippo Ispsardi, gets into Chris Cornell territory. They just released an a 3 song EP that was more of an extended piece than 3 songs.
There are so many more though....Guacho, The Flying Eyes, The Heavy Eyes, The Dirty Streets... Guess I have more writing to do. :) It ain’t easy being greasy.
Tell us about your personal music collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?
I don’t have a huge collection of music. My computer crashed and hard drives have crashed, so I don’t really keep up a digital library anymore. Easy come, easy go...but we already talked about that. I play music games with myself and make Spotify playlists out of them. It’s a little more interactive than downloading and sorting through a bunch of albums. I like the easy access.
I generally don’t write about a band unless they have a Bandcamp. If I want to listen to a whole record, that’s where I go. That site is a huge resource and catalyst for music in general, but especially for the stoner scene.
I lived in Indianapolis for a little while and I threw out the majority of my CDs. Probably about 500 of them. I probably just caused a disruption in the force as people are reading this. I worked in a CD store and ended up with so much stuff that was irrelative to my listening preferences and I didn’t want to move them. No big loss. I have a solid memory for the important stuff. I’m doing with vinyl what people did with CDs and upgrading my library. If it’s worth keeping a physical copy, I’ll drop the money on it.
I have a lot of vinyl, but not near as much as most people that I know who are vinyl hounds. I don’t have a lot of living space and my music has to share that space with my guitar and studio gear. One day I’ll have a nice room with lots of shelves to fill with albums and books on music, but for now I run light and compact. I consider my books part of my music collection too, since most of them are on the subject. Because I was so poor growing up, still am, I didn’t have access to a lot of music other than the radio, but I did have access to books and I learned a lot about my favorite musicians by reading about their music before hearing much of it. I knew I was listening to the solo in Freebird on the radio for the first time without anyone having to tell me, it just had to be the song because how many times I had read about it in magazines and such. I have a graphic novel of Jimi Hendrix’s life called Voodoo Child. I’d say that is my most treasured item right now. That or a book called Jambeuax that is about a fictional band. Only I know what that band sounds like to me. It’s kind of neat. They are great.
What makes it all worthwhile for you?
When I was in high school, I had to write an essay on where I thought I’d be in 10 years. Of course, it was the Almost Famous fantasy version of it, but I’m doing it. I’m playing music. I’m putting out records. I have a studio to work in. I have open dialogues with FANTASTIC musicians all over this time. I get to talk with writers, promoters, and record label people. I’m not even that great of a writer, but this scene is really accessible. I just enjoy participating. My band can’t always play out, but it seems like our audience just gets bigger and bigger anyway. That’s why I do it. I feel like I can pull my weight in most areas of my life, but here I feel like I fit in.
How would your life be different if you weren't writing about music?
I’d be bored and frustrated. My creative outlets would be reduced by a ridiculous amount. For me, that’s terrifying to think about. I’d rather not.
Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?
Nah. I haven’t bashed anyone that bad yet. What I did find out though is that a lot of people who think that they are opened minded are full of shit. They just want to hear themselves talk and get really upset if you have another point of view. Generally speaking, though, the people I have met and dealt with are intelligent, congenial, and respective. I think you call that being an adult.
In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?
I want to be remember and someone who gave a damn about something, Turns out, that is music for me. I would love to be known as a musician, but since that isn’t really in the cards, I would like to be remembered as a patron of the arts; music in specific. I’m not shy in saying that I had some really amazing psychedelic trips. During one particularly memorable one, I realized that I could treat my time as a big art project. I go to school for sound design. I’d like to work in the great studios of the world. Writing is just one thing that I do. I look as my writing to not only be expressive but a utility for myself as well. The better I can express myself as a musical writer; the better I can communicate in general. What I’m rambling on about here is that what I want to accomplish is multi-faceted. I want to be remembered for accomplishing an artistic existence with music as a lifestyle; not a career or a hobby.
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 work in a candy store. It’s a busier job than someone might expect. But when there is downtime or a job that requires tedious repetition instead of concentration, I get to zone out and think about music. I’m sure everyone else does this too, but I worked there for 8 years, largely due to the fact. That and my boss is really supportive. Her son is a professional wrestler and that is really similar scene when you compare it to being in a band. We trade war stories all of the time. Lots of travel, hard work, and little or no pay. He has a wrestling school called Wrestling Is Heart. I could just as easily say Music/Writing is heart.
What's next? Any new projects?
I’d love to do more of this or that, but my plate is FULL. I’d love to graduate school sometime in the next 17 years and hopefully get a job in a performing arts or musical environment.
Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?
Well, there isn’t much else. I’d say that my other passion is Humanism. It’s a broad category, but I feel that Humanism and music are the same thing. That’s a big existential statement, but I think you get the idea. But really, I want to find out how to be a better human being and help other do the same. I have a few ideas, but I have to do them for myself, by myself first. Music is my chosen medium for the pursuit.
I might just be pipe dreaming, but that is the fact of the matter.