A Ripple Conversation With Horseburner

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

Adam: Early on, it was watching Ringo lay into those beautiful old Ludwigs. People can say whatever they want about Ringo, but in those early live videos, dude is hammering away and looking happier than anyone who ever lived.

Then as I got a little older, I heard a band called Zao (originally formed in our very own hometown around ‘92). I heard those harsh vocals, I heard these crushing guitars, drums being absolutely pummeled. That was my intro to the heavy underground.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

A: Normally, we’ve always centered songs around riffs. I think that’s what we’re mostly drawn to in heavy music. Interestingly enough, the new album actually started with just a title. Then came the ideas and concepts behind the title, then came the riffs. Of course a couple riffs on this record have been in the reserves for almost 15 years, but mostly, we wrote this album as one full album.  We’ve never really done that before.  But as usual, it was a very democratic process where we tried to get input from everyone involved.  Especially with Seth who was new to the band as we were writing, I wanted him to feel a real sense of ownership over the music just like everybody else.  I didn’t want him to feel like just a hired gun, you know? 

Who has influenced you the most?

A: Honestly, I don’t know if there’s a single answer for that.  I think you have to keep your ears and eyes open at all times, be ready for anything to change your perspective when you least expect it.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

A: I personally gather my ideas from everything that I take in.  I take a little something, good or bad, from every band we share a stage with.  I look to all the bands we’re friends with, and I see how hard they’re all working, and you can’t help but be inspired by that.  I look at literature, I look at film, I look at the world today.  The socio-economic state of the world, our current political climate, all the horrible and all the wonderful things happening.  It all makes me want to create.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

A: Growing up, we were lucky here because we had all ages venues.  So at 12 or 13 years old,  I started playing shows.  At 14 or 15, I started booking shows.  It was great and exposed us to so much different music at a young age.  I didn’t worship all the typical bands young teenagers often do.  My heroes were local and regional bands.  As we got older, that all fell apart and went away.  We kept a DIY scene going for a while, but it eventually faded too.  So for us it was a mission to get out of town and start touring. 

West Virginia is this weird thing, man.  Like… West Virginians are fiercely proud of our home, but it’s also a very strange place to be if you’re progressively minded at all.  So there’s also this constant desire to get out and do more, to be more.  I think that has always made us put a lot of creative energy into our music.  We’re not satisfied to sound like everyone else out there doing it. Now that could be a positive or a negative depending on your opinion of our tunes, haha, but it’s the mindset we take. 

Where'd the band name come from?

A: We were sitting around in a friend’s basement trying to come up with a name, and when Horseburner came up, we thought it was hilariously absurd.  And it stuck.  That’s it.  That’s the whole story. 

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

A: I would say any Star Wars movie, but I’d actually just stand there open-mouthed watching John Williams do his thing.

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

A: Thin Lizzy - Wild One

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

A: Oh boy, that could take a while. I’ll give you maybe my favorite thing that’s happened to us.  Years and years ago, we played this great festival with a bunch of awesome West Virginia independent artists, but also a band who is a bit more successful and popular who were… kinda dicks.  Stayed on their bus all day, didn’t come and hang out with the fans or anyone, which I’d get if they were on some big tour and had been traveling, but it was supposed to be this cool intimate WV gathering.  But they were kind of big timing people.  So anyway,  we were hanging around after we played and trying to sell some merch when this guy comes up to us and asks if we have a sharpie.  We’re thinking he wants something signed, which always made us feel kind of weird, but we’re also not going to be jerks and say no.  So we grab the sharpie and he just exclaims, “Thanks! I’m gonna go get [redacted]’s autograph!” and ran off with our marker.  I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed that hard.  Then we packed up and left because we had another gig that same night a few hours away. 

In more recent events, we played a gig in Iowa last year.  The tour was going really well, it was Seth’s first time out with us, we were reinvigorated by his enthusiasm for the whole thing.  Well, ended up being no locals on the Iowa bill, absolutely no promotion from the venue, but we thought, hey maybe we can still sling a few shirts or something.  We played to four people… never in the room at the same time.  Guy came in… threw down some cash on the table while we were playing and dragged the display shirt from the table.  Our displays are always smalls.  This dude was way too tall for a small.  I also broke my brand new phone screen because I forgot I set it on my floor tom before we started playing.  This guy we had been talking to before we played had to run said he’d be back soon, but when he got back, we were on our last song, and he was sad, and Seth only knew a limited number of songs so we started playing songs we’d already played again.  We did end up selling a decent amount of merch somehow, and now Seth had his very first tour disaster story.  Three weeks later we were home and Jack got a speeding ticket in the mail from some hidden traffic camera somewhere in Iowa. 

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?

A: For me, performing is the entire point of playing music. There is not another feeling on earth like being on stage and trading vibes between musician and audience. It’s transcendent. It’s spiritual. It’s untouchable. While it’s happening, it’s the only thing that matters.  And I’ve always said, I love the idea that for just the short time we’re playing, we could be the one thing that makes someone in the audience forget about all the bad stuff happening in their life.  I’ll do it as long as my body holds up.

What makes a great song?

A: Honesty. I love so many different types of music that there is no unified sound that I think commands greatness. It’s all about getting a real, genuine feeling from the music. If it feels fake, forced, or disingenuous, I can’t dig it.
I need sincerity.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

A: As this particular band, I think the first song we wrote was “These are America’s Hands.” We wanted to be a traditional, slow moving doom band with 10 minute plus songs. We wrote one and decided to never do that again. My attention span is way, way too short for that.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

A: I’m so proud of the entire new record.  I know that’s kind of cliche to say, but it’s true.  I will say one of my favorite moments on the whole thing is an instrumental track that I had almost nothing to do with called “Seas Between.”  Zach wrote it probably 12 or 13 years ago, and his mother always loved it when she was alive.  It’s just a beautiful piece of music, and I’m so happy we finally found a way to put it out in the world. 

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
A: In the world of heavy music, I think Elder is 100% the top of the mountain. But that’s just one. There’s so much great stuff out there. Anyone who says real music is dead isn’t actually looking.  Aside from that, we’re lucky now to call so many amazing bands friends, and I feel like they’re all writing killer music.  Just one for instance, Lo-Pan just put out a new record in May and it’s incredible. 

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
A: Vinyl when I have time to decompress and really enjoy it. Digital for today’s constantly moving world.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice
A: I’ve settled into being a beer guy. I had a whiskey phase, and I still enjoy it on occasion, but it makes my acid reflux act up too bad because I’m apparently 70 years old.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

A: We’re from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and we only have one record store, and they still have cassettes from the 90s selling for $10 or $15 so I don’t really know what to tell you there.

What's next for the band?

A: Getting out on the road as much as we possibly can, as soon as we can.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

A: Like I said before, we are friends with so many amazing bands. To list all our favorites would take forever, so if you see us talking about a band, go check them out. You’ll be glad you did.