Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Folks Behind the Music - Ride With the Devil

Today's spotlight, the killer stoner metal site Ride with the Devil blog

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

Well it was late 2010 and i'd been searching around the internet for anything new or obscure to download and I happened to stumble upon a couple of blogs. I got busy downloading pretty much anything and everything I saw and found that a vast majority of it was really great stuff. Then I just happened to discover the myspace or bandcamp for a russian doom band called Kamni who just blew me away. Then the penny dropped, and I figured that bands like this often just fly under our radar, even though everyone's on the net these days we don't usually get a chance to be exposed to them. So between that, and knowing that most of my mates were in various bands that would probably suffer the same fate, I just figured that I should really try and help get them out there and heard. I'd absolutely no experience in any kind of journalism and my writing can be described as shoddy at the best of times but it all seemed like a good idea at the time.

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?

Ahhh, where do i start!?

First epiphany moment? Well my earliest memories were of being driven to school when I was about 3 and my dad listening to ZZ Top, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Dire Straights and Jimi Hendrix in the car. That always stuck in my head, but the real kicker was when I was about 4 years old, and Back To The Future was on the tv. The scene where Marty gets up and starts playing Johnny B Goode just grabbed me. I just sat about 2ft from the screen and just stared in awe. It still gives me goosebumps now.

First album? ZZ Top Eliminator on cassette when I was 8. I'd been exposed to it so much on the journey to school I just loved it. First cd I bought I think was a best of Buddy Holly haha, and vinyl was Motorhead's Bomber.

First album that terrified me? Damn, I don't really know if ive been terrified by an album. I can tell you which first made my hair stand on end though. Electric Ladyland. My dad handed it to me and told me to listen to it when I was 7 or 8. I just sat in the corner of the lounge next to the stereo with headphones on for about 2 hours with it on repeat. 22 years later and it still has the same effect.
As for a musical history, I've never been much of a player. I've got a black Gibson SG sat next to me right now, that I play badly. But I've done various vocal stints with a few bands over the years. When I finished school I almost instantly ended up hitting the road with my mates band Raging Speedhorn. It was on and off for years for me, mostly causing trouble, getting into fights and breaking shit, then my best mate Frank baling me out in some way or another. Then Speedhorn spawned a band called Viking Skull. Those tours pretty much consisted of the same thing - get in, get fucked, get out. It was all pretty messy but a good laugh for the best part from what I remember, its all a bit of a blur. Then when CkY first came over here I hit Bam and Jess up with the Skull demo, few years later Jess had taken over drumming duties. The last 13 years or so have been pretty surreal at times. I've found myself trying to avoid the police with Bam after a HIM show in London, telling members of Rammstein to go fuck themselves because we weren't invited to their after show party and offering Ronnie James Dio whiskey that I stole off his own rider. A couple weeks back I find myself on the Fuckface Unstoppable tour in London, completely out of my mind. Last thing I recall was taking a heroic dose of mushrooms with Mark Hanna (of Black Cowgirl) and Jess then dancing like men possessed... Oh, and being sat on the bus with Alex trying to turn his jeans into shorts with a kitchen knife... Not exactly wise with most of a bottle of whiskey running through your veins.
I'm getting too old for these kind of capers these days...

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

My mate Dan over at Easy Rider Records hit me up with a band called Black Prism that he discovered recently. They're absolutely blinding. Oh and a band called Moon Curse from Wisconsin... Fucking awesome! If you're into stuff like Uncle Acid and Windhand you've gotta check them both out.

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

It's up and down, it always has been to be fair. But the good stuff is always there if you know where to look. As a whole the 'alternative' music scene, ugh, I hate calling it that, has become a bit of a joke. At least the face of it has. It's all about fashion these days and it drives me mad. I cant stand bands like Bring Me The Horizon. It's just seems that because you scream into the mic, have a load of tattoos and a fancy hair cut you're instantly given airtime. Don't get me wrong, I listen to a huge array of genres. Hell, it not unusual for my iPod to flick from say, Boris to Dusty Springfield to Bongripper to Rachmaninov then Jerry Reed via Orbital. But the priorities have just been turned on their head, and that really gets to me. You ask their fan base what they love about them and I'd bet my bollocks to a barn dance that the vast majority will say something along the lines of; 'lead singer's hot'. It's bullshit. Yeah, I know thats always somewhat been that way. Hell, I don't think they would have been a single woman in the 60's of 70's that wouldn't have broken her pelvis opening her legs for Robert Plant or Jim Morrison. But at least they produced amazing music ya know? And that was their priority.

I remember back in the late 90's and seeing Iron Monkey play. More tattoos, screaming and violence than you could ever wish for at a gig, and you know much they cared about style? Not a jot. For their back drop they had what im pretty sure was a bed sheet, with 'Iron Money' painted on it in black emulsion. They just didn't give a fuck, and thats what I really miss these days.

I cant speak much for the rest of the world, but over here in the UK the sludge/doom scene is still going strong. We've got the likes of Iron Witch, War Wolf, Sea Bastard, Dead Existence, Hang The Bastard... The list goes on. Being as we birthed the whole heavy metal genre, it's good to know we've still got running through our veins.

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

I'm not overly sure. I don't really like saying that I review bands for a start. I don't want to judge them, I know that sounds like a bit of a cop out, but these guys and girls, have made an effort to actually put something together and contact me and just want to be heard by more people. So even if something arrives in my inbox or on my doorstep that isn't really my cup of tea I will endeavour to point out the good points of it. There will always be someone who'll dig it. I have very little time for critiques. I've always stood by the notion that those who cant do - teach, and those who cant teach - critique... ha, and those who cant critique - Tweet.

I just want to be here to be a bit of a showcase, I guess. Somewhere anyone can arrive to from anywhere in the world and find something that they like. If someone goes through our site and finds just one band they're really into then we've succeeded.

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

Well I've got a couple of guys, Joe and Ruben helping me when it comes to the writing part, but when I come to writing something, to be honest I usually sit there drinking whiskey while I do it. It's seems to be the only cure for writers block.

It wouldnt surprise me if i had sclerosis of the liver now actually...

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

We've had them in the past I must admit, and we've had posts taken down and requests from bands to remove links, which it totally fair enough. That's why we really stray away from putting any well known sort of acts up anymore. Its too much hassle, plus the chances are that most of the readers already know about them anyway, so if they're gonna download the album illegally they've already done it. When it comes to stuff we receive we do always ask if we can up something up for a download if its not readily available. But that's mainly to help them out... If they give us a track or two off the album or EP, or even just a demo to put up for download people take a bit more notice. They stick it on their ipod's, phones, computers etc and even if its not straight away I'd bet a good few will eventually come back wanting more. It's happened to me. For whatever reason, I've not given a band enough listens, then like 6 months down the line I've stumbled upon a track and its really hooked me. Then I've gone and picked up the whole album.

We want all the bands we hit up to make some cash, but these days the scene is so damn convoluted with artists that its really difficult. You're spoilt for choice with great bands out there, no one could possibly pay for all the albums and ep's we put up. But more and more of them are using Bandcamp and offering a pay what you want choice, which I think is really the way forward.

It's funny, I picked up an old LP the other day and the dust jacket had a big any piracy ad on it. Saying that home 'taping was ruining the music industry'. That was 40+ years old. Piracy isn't really ruining music, it's just really weeding it out. It sounds harsh, but if you're actually good, then you will get yourself a fan base, and that fan base will come to see you play, they will buy your music and wear your merch, its that simple. I think more and more bands are realising that now. There's so much competition out there, you cant afford to not be smart about it. We'd all love to be rock stars rolling in money, hookers and blow, but even if piracy was 100% eliminated it wouldn't make the slightest difference to where you're band's gonna end up. Sadly, that heyday of, for example, Led Zeppelin, where bands had their own jets, has long since gone. At the end of the day, if you make great music people wont mind forking out for it, providing its not massively overpriced.

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

Hmmm... I maintain I stumbled upon Uncle Acid a good few years ago. Back in the 'Vol. 1' days. Sadly, Rise Above Records got all of our posts deleted. Even though we never put anything up that they owned. Pfft.

We were sent some of the first Black Cowgirl tracks, they're absolutely blinding. Also Monster Coyote from Brazil and Top Dead Celebrity from Utah, fucking amazing! Pretty sure we were the first on those fronts.

 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?

Voodoo Child by Hendrix. The effect it had on me as a kid hasn't changed it over 20 years. You go watch him perform that at Woodstock... Mind blowing.

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

Black Prism, Top Dead Celebrity, Oxcross, Mountain Witch, Moon Curse, Swarm of Spheres, Olde Growth, and All Them Witches. I know that's 7 but fuck it, I don't care. They all have new albums in the works so they'll all be ones to watch.

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

Vinyl! Haha, im surprised you had to ask me. I still have a few hundred cd's but nothing beats wax for me.

Dean (aka Stoner Rock Guy) posted a pic of me and some of my collection on instagram recently and some of the comments were great. As for prized possession, I've got too many to choose from really.
I got a signed first press of the first Black Keys album framed and on my wall. But I've got a fair amount of stuff that I keep locked away too. Test presses, the first Queens of the Stone Age vinyl, Clutch's self titled, all of my Church of Misery vinyl, first pressed of Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple etc. All my rarer stuff really.

I did pick up a few unique bits of recent though. I finally managed to find all 3 copies of G.A.T.E.S 'Devastation' EP, which usually go for a couple of hundred bucks each, and Toner Low's 'III' pizza box, which is just genius.

Sentimental value wise, I have got a first press of the first ZZ Top album that I got Billy Gibbons to sign when I bumped into him in LAX a couple of years back. Long story. So that's pretty special too.

What makes it all worthwhile for you?

I'm always stoked when bands hit us back up after we've put something up, to say thanks. And when I get sent anything. I keep all the thank you notes I get. We don't expect anything from anyone but when something turns up on my doorstep that's really great.

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

I'd probably just miss out on a shit ton of really awesome music to be fair. I love what I do, and it would be great to be able to make a living of it but I don't think I ever could. There's been times when the site's engulfed my life more than it should have, and I as much as I love helping bands out and finding new stuff I don't want it to become a burden.

 Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?

Not yet. We've had some anonymous shit that's turned out to be from other blogs/sites though. But there's ways to deal with that...

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

I would be cool to step it up a gear and maybe start a record label. More and more small independent labels have popped up over recent years and the likes of STB Records and Easy Rider Records who we work quite closely with are a real inspiration. They both do really limited runs of vinyl and really cool pressings. It would be great to get into that side of things. 

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, it sucks up a hell of a lot of your time. I get a couple of emails everyday at the very least. It doesn't sound like a lot, but every day, then dealing with the facebook page, bandcamp and instagram plus working a day job to boot makes it a struggle sometimes. I really don't like letting anyone down so sometimes I find myself writing stuff up or trying to update the site or facebook page in the early hours of the morning. Having Joe and Ruben on board have been a mega help this year too.

 What's next?  Any new projects?

We've got a few things in the works, all a bit hush hush at the moment though. fingers crossed it should be ready at the end of the year.

We'll be putting out another cd at the end of the year too as well as doing a big prize draw actually! Every one who heads over to our Bandcamp page can down load our end of year cd's for free, but for every cd that someone pays for they'll get their name entered into the draw in December. There's still 4 months left and there is a shit ton of stuff! Signed stuff, loads of really cool stuff from the likes of Uncle Acid, The Sword, Orchid, Sleep, Church Of Misery, Black Cobra, etc etc. Cds, 45's and LP's, t-shirts, stickers, patches, badges, posters, cassettes, hats... It'll be an amazing.

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

I don't get time for much else truth be told. Photography and Ice hockey are my other loves, but unfortunately the latter there has fallen by the wayside of recent due to time constraints.

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