Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Folks Behind the Music - Spotlight on Steve Howe - The Sludgelord

A new column featuring on the folks who make it their life to spread the word on good music.  Today, Steve Howe of The Sludgelord.  Check em out at http://thesludgelord.blogspot.com/

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

The beginning. Well I have done some minor reviews for friends webzines in the past. But they all folded as the audience wasn't there. So I stopped doing it for a few years.

Then my good friend John – drummer for Sorry For Nothing – asked me to write an album review for SFN's soon to be new album. I said yeah. I thought he would publish it on his website. But when I wrote it he told me to look at it getting published it somewhere. As it would look suspicious to their fans if a friend of theirs wrote review.

So I came up with designing a simple blog to make it look legit. I posted a few free downloads of bands I became a fan of. Then posted album review. How did I know people would start reading it from there. So I carried on going, going and going some more...

And that's how Sludgelord was born. If you told me I would still be here 2.5 years later and coming onto a million hits I would of laughed at you. Or that I would be interviewing some of my musical heroes I would asked you for your dealers number. HA HA.

We're all the product of our musical past.  What's your musical history?

Now don't shoot me for this. In my teenage years I was a Pop/Dance/Rave fan. Bought some cheesy shit back in my younger days. Then when I was 18 I discovered grunge. Then moved onto harder stuff such as Alice In Chains, Monster Magnet, Thin Lizzy (Well I always had a soft spot for Thin Lizzy and The Who), Kyuss, Karma To Burn, Down, Pantera, Metallica.

Until I discovered bands like Pelican, Isis, Neurosis, Electric Wizard and my love for heavier sludge, stoner and doom started.

First album you ever bought?

You really want to know this one. Phil Collins. I mean Phil Anselmo and Pantera. Yeah. I know. You will stick with my first answer.

First musical epiphany moment?

- When I was 18 years old and I discovered Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. It was actually Alice In Chain classic - Rooster that showed me how powerful music can be. And that Dance/Rave music was not my thing anymore. That video changed my life for the better.

First album that terrified the hell out of you?

That is a hard question to answer. First album that terrified me.

Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral. As it is such a bleak understated masterpiece. Trent Reznor went thru hell with this album. And it fucking shows. Hurt is a classic song of any genre.

I started listening to Godflesh around the same time. That give me some lovely nightmares as well.

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

Probably the début album by Italian Sonic Overlords – NIBIRU - CAOSGON – An epic assault on the senses. Full of amazing riffs mixed with psychedelic noises you won't hear anywhere else. My album of the year so far.

Though other mentions should goto Monomyth, Traitors Return To Earth, Pyres, Summoner, Void Of Sleep, Cody Foster Army. The list goes on.

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

Good – Vinyl sales will be getting stronger by the day. Brilliant labels like yourselves, STB Records, Devouter getting bigger and better than ever.

Loads of more great bands being sent Sludgelord way to be reviewed.

Hopefully more live bands coming to my part of the UK where I live. – Newcastle Upon Tyne.

BAD – I know we have had discussions like this before. But idiotic music like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and the Disney Pop Muppets taking over the world. Simon Cowell dominance.

Famous Bands charging extortionate rates for concert tickets and merchandise. And signing exclusive deals to Livenation. Fuck that shit. Normal price for a ticket. But then you pay more on top such as Tax, Printing the E-Ticket, Delivery charges even though your printing the ticket. Raw Materials even though you are using your own material to print it.

You get the picture...

With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do?

I describe myself as a dude who loves good music and shares his opinion on what I think is good. Plus I love to help out the underground scene. I do this as a hobby as I love the music and the bands involved. Sure their have been times I wanted to quit but the music always pulls me back in.

Sludgelord is here to stay as long as people want us to stay.

What's your unique take on the music and writing?

My own unique take on music is we only publish stuff that we like.  Why give a band publicity that you don't like. Some people might not like that view but that's how I felt when I started the blog and we are not going to change now.

My writing can be a bit over the top but that has always been my style. I have started editing my work more as I can be a bit too enthusiastic.

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

Never. Nope. Never going to happen. Why – because I wanted to stay on the right side of the internet and blogging law. When I first started their were loads of website with illegal downloads but slowly those numbers are dwindling.

Yeah I downloaded a few albums in my time. Who hasn't. But I always bought the album afterwards. Not an excuse. But since doing the blog I have a real appreciation for the bands work and commitment that goes into an album. Plus the labels and distros that release it.

So. Nope. No illegal downloading on Sludgelord.

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

Well there is only one answer to this – TRAITORS RETURN TO EARTH – My fave band that I ever discovered, promoted, reviewed, interviewed and kept on spreading the word.

Those guys have been great to me. Always giving me great articles and albums to listen to.

Though I have promoted other great bands – Desert Storm, Cody Foster Army, Nibiru, Wall, Adrift For Days, The Moth etc … Apologies for other bands that I have missed.

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?

Dopesmoker – Technically an album but it was originally conceived as one song. Why – It's Stoner Metal's most defining moment. And it's one of my all time fave albums.

It has inspired so many great Sludge/Stoner Metal bands we have today.

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

Nibiru – Italian Sludge Metal at its most creative and psychedelic
Desert Storm – Awesome UK Stoner Metal Band
WALL – A blistering Sludge/Doom-Pop metal band from Germany.

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

It used to be CD's but now its vinyl

CD – Neurosis Live at Roadburn signed by Scott Kelly
Vinyl – Dopesmoker Limited edition vinyl. Mos Generator signed by Tony Reed, Traitors Return To Earth – STB Records Limited Edition. And quite a few more lying around my house.

What makes it all worthwhile for you?

A band getting that much needed exposure that they deserve. Promoting great music to people who actually want to listen to something worthwhile.

Plus being thanked by the band themselves in so many different and brilliant ways.

Desert Storm – I am mentioned in their album notes for Horizontal Life
Bevar Sea – Mentioned in the album notes again.
Traitors Return To Earth – I am mentioned (Well Sludgelord is) in their comic book.

Plus some great bands have received vinyl release because of our work on Sludgelord. Such as Adrift For Days. Now that is beyond fucking cool.

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

Not discovering great music like I am doing now. Following some generic metal band and not discovering the joys of vinyl. And still being a lowly paid office worker.

Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?

Ravenous Fan. Nope

Band – Yeah I have. A UK Stoner Metal Band who shall remain nameless. The lead singer was singing and speaking in a false American accent. He was from London and I told him to speak normally. He had a right go at me. I just laughed it off. It made him madder.

He couldn't do anything as I was twice his size. So I went to the bar for another drink.

This was after I bought the T-Shirt and CD to show my support. Well those went into the bin afterwards.

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

Promoting great bands on Sludgelord and telling it like it is. But it's not just me. The whole Sludgelord team deserves a mention for doing the blog. Aaron especially. He does a hell of a lot on Twitter and Facebook.

Plus all of our wonderful helpers.

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?

Yeah – I am a public sector worker. I find the balance in my free time at night and at weekend.You are right it's a delicate balance to do both your normal job and updating the blog.

It's a good job music is such a passion of mine especially since I started the blog. My bro loves me doing the blog as he discovers so many brilliant artists through it. He never does any work on it but he shares with the rewards.

Anyway I still meet up with friends at the weekend. And I do leave Sludgelord at home.

What's next? Any new projects?

More interviews and more free download compilations. I might have something exciting in the new year. But I don't want to say anything as of yet due to time and money issues.

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

Films, Football sorry Soccer – Newcastle United, Reading. Family and Friends. The boring stuff....

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