Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Interview with Stevie Floyd from Dark Castle

I first met Stevie and Rob from Dark Castle in an old office complex in Richmond Virginia. Some kids had rented out the giant place as a kind of communal apartment, which (like most crusty kids in Richmond) they also used as a DIY venue for house shows. Despite the difficult, stair-plagued load-in, it turned out to be a killer show. Later we all crashed at a practice space (presumably Gwar's) and watched "The Foot-Fist Way", which almost caused me to laugh myself to death. Ever since that show USX and Dark Castle have hit it off. Stevie is a great guitar player as well as a great visual artist, on canvas as well as human skin. They are always on the road, don't miss them when they come through your town.

                                                       (Stevie Floyd by Wandering Star Photography)

First off, Dark Castle just recorded a new record with Sanford Parker. I have heard the track “Stare Into Absence” (because I did backing vocals on it), and it sounded really cool. Can you talk some about the new album?

-We dug deep on this new recording.  As we are very influenced by multi cultural scales,  we used only the 2 that are the most influential to us at this moment, so every song was written in Hungarian and Japanese scales to have the vibe and flow that we were trying to create.  A very decrepit yet enlightening ancient and primitive emotion is what we were feeling to achieve in all riffs, beats and vocals.  The lyrics are from the darkest, deepest part of me that I have ever tapped into, but climb towards awareness of the source of all life... encompassing dreams, death, nature, light and the five senses. We wanted to bring out the farthest extremity of all emotions and feelings possible with this album.

 Also, you guys just signed with Profound Lore, a label that has been putting out a lot of good stuff. What are your thoughts on that?

-Profound Lore is a collection of some of the most artistic, influential, forward thinking, HEAVY bands...Yob, Portal, Salome, Krallice, Ludicra, Bloody Panda...just to name a few. We are very honored to be a part of this.

                                          (Stevie and Rob recording with the black Flying V.)

I always enjoy your live shows, killer guitar tone. And you pull of the guitar/drums only thing without compromising the sound. Can you talk about your rig some? I know you use multiple amps, something I like to do as well. I’m interested in your setup.

-Thanks Nate!...Well I used to use 3 heads and now I narrowed it down to 2, my Sunn Model T and my Ampeg V2. I run the Sunn through a 6x10 cabinet for more mids and highs and the Ampeg through a 2x15 cabinet for more of a bass tone. I also used my Sunn 200s through 2 4x12 cabinets but discovered it was just as loud without them.  I run the heads through a voodoo labs pedal that is a 4 channel selector.  I use several pedals as well, mostly my Big Muff for distortion, octave, chorus and delay. I try not to over do it, I like the tone to be as raw and thick as possible without getting too muddy and messy with tons of effects. Less is more.  Rob also uses marching drums for his kick and snare, as well as a floor tom as a rack tom.

You also put out some really cool art, and you have a distinct style.  Can you talk about your history as a visual artist?

-Thank you, as a child, my dad was an artist and pretty much made my brother and I draw constantly...which we appreciate so much now.  My dad also was super into music and records. He designed album covers for some prog bands in the 70's as well.  So naturally I was inspired and driven by him.  I've drawn and painted almost every day of my life...my brother too, who is an incredible artist. I also went to an art high school where we took college level painting, sculpture, photography and art history classes...it was pretty unreal.  Now I tattoo and have been for almost 10 years and I love it. Ive designed a few album covers and t shirt designs for bands and I'm hoping to do a lot more of that.  I really enjoy listening to a bands music and lyrics and letting images come to me for album art, its the ultimate inspiration. I love how as you grow and open your mind more and more, your art changes and unfolds in that same light.
                                             USX art by Stevie

Who has great guitar tone?

-Well it completely depends on what style of music is being played....but I'm pretty much obsessed with Sunn Model T's so, the only band who completely covers the stage in Sunn Model T's.....SUNNO)))

You also work at/run a tattoo studio in Florida, and I have seen your work on a few of our mutual friends. How long have you been a tattoo artist, and how did you get started?

 -I've been tattooing for almost 10 years.  I absolutely love it and never get tired of tattooing.  I opened an appointment only studio with my friend Kim about 4 years ago. We both travel a lot so we wanted a quiet and peaceful space where we could make our own hours and put our full focus and attention into who were tattooing with out distractions. 

What are your thoughts on touring in America? In your opinion, what are the pros and cons?

-Well, we've probably gone on 20 American tours or more and they have all been so incredibly different.  We booked our own tours for a few years, which got better each time as far as knowing who to book with and meeting the right bands to play with...etc.  The coolest thing about DIY touring is all of the beautiful people you meet and the crazy places you play....kids basements...churches..etc.  You never know whats going to happen at each show, its always a mystery and something new and different each time.  I guess the con would be instability and having times where problems occur with shows.  Going on tours that are booked through agents are always more structured and planned out of course...which is rad but you definitely lose some of the mystery and self fulfillment that you get doing it yourself.  Regardless of what happens, its always so much fun...waking up every morning somewhere different and driving somewhere new!

What is your favorite unknown band?
-US Christmas:)

Final thoughts?

-I'm just so appreciative and honored to be a part of this heavy music movement in this time and place.  Everyone has so much love and passion.  And never have I imagined such open minded beings coming together in all forms of this music without any division.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview with Gravy from Rwake


Gravy is a great guy,  and one who doesn't deny his roots. Despite being part of Little Rock's infamous Rwake - a band that has created some of the most menacing, venomous metal ever to emerge from the American south - Gravy could easily slip on a pair of overalls and pick along with a gospel bluegrass band. People like him make the south interesting. He and fellow Arkansas guitarist Kiffin are one of the sickest string teams around, and anyone who has ever been to a Rwake show can verify that. Gravy was nice enough to motor up to the dock, put down his fishing pole and answer some questions about Rwake, family, touring, and tone. Thanks Gravy.

Hey man, first off can you talk some about growing up in Arkansas and how you got into heavy music?
Growing up in Arkansas, I was subjected to all kinds of music. My moms side of the family was heavy into old school bluegrass stuff. I remember being three or four years old and seeing both of my uncles with a guitar or banjo or mandolin. All my aunts and my mom played piano and sang, at family reunions they would jam all night. When I was 7 I recall my older brother watching KISS on MTV. One day my brother brought home the Diary of a Madman album by Ozzy. My mom was flippin’ out about the cover and everything. As soon as he put it on the record player I was hooked. Randy Rhoades, that’s all I got to say.
I know you have several kids, and I can relate to that. Can you talk some about how you handle the band/family thing?
Having Kids and touring is an absolute juggling act. I bust my ass working when I’m not touring, have to make sure the family is taken care of while I’m gone. Me and my wife get along great cause we get to spend a lot of time apart. So I guess while I’m home its all good times. My job is cool with me being gone too, I just tell em how it is. I’m going out on the road regardless, so why loose a good worker? I plan ahead so there are no issues with work, bills etc.
What is in your current guitar rig?
The guitar rig I’m using is a Gibson 1981 Custom Les Paul, wine red. It’s got an EMG in the bridge and a stock pickup it the neck. I use the neck pickup for clean stuff, and the EMG for the dirt. A couple of years ago I got a Laney GH100TI head and cab. I love the Tony Iommi head, the leads scream on that rig and it wasn’t too expensive. The only pedals I use are a Boss tuner, a Boss DD3 delay, and a MXR micro amp boost for the leads. I run my pedals through the FX loop on my amp so they wont cut the signal from my guitar. Its a simple rig, but I really like it cause I control the whole sound with my hands and volume knobs.
You and Kiffin seem to have a real solid connection when you play, how do you guys pull things of so seamlessly?
Me and Kiffin have been jamming together since 2002. He is an ungodly riffer on the guitar. When he showed up to our practice with his guitar, he knew all the riffs and harmonies already. He plugged in and rocked it 100 %. Whenever we get a chance me and Kiff sit down and write riffs or just BS around with some melodies or ideas. Practice and one-on-one jam time keeps us in shape. When you play the same stuff so many times it becomes muscle memory, your hands will do the same thing out of habit.

What’s next for Rwake? I’ve heard some talk of a new record.
We’re going mid-January to finish the new album. It will be out soon and be warned, its a heavy one. After it comes out we will be getting back out there and doing some shows. Can’t wait to get back on the road!
I know you like to fish. What is your preferred method? What is your prey? And how long have you been addicted?
When I’m not workin’ I’m fishin’. Before I came to do this interview I was fishin’. Bass fishing is what I prefer, but I like any thing that bites. Bass on a top water lure is the most fun! I been fishing since i was a kid, it’s a southern thing I guess.
I always enjoy your mandolin parts on the Rwake records. I’m guessing you picked that up through family/community exposure in Arkansas. Is that the case? If not, could you talk about your musical roots?
Well my family was huge on bluegrass. When I first stared playing I was 12, and I would sit with the family and play along. My uncle Danny sat me down and showed me the blues. My dad was big into BB KING and Stevie Ray Vaughn, so I would play around with that stuff. I would go to guitar lessons after school and come home and play till midnight every day. I played so much I hated it, but I wanted to get good so I paid my dues. There were some classical lessons and jazz lessons in there also. I was lead guitar in the high school jazz band for two years and also played drums in the marching and concert bands all through high school. My parents surrounded me with music everyday, I guess that’s why I am who I am.
What is your favorite unknown band?
My favorite band to this day is Weedeater, we have such a good time with those dudes when we’re out, but also they bust their asses touring. I respect that, they do what they want to do and nobody’s gonna change that!
Who fights the good fight?
Triumph fights the good fight! You guitar players out there: go learn A MIDSUMMER’S DAYDREAM by TRIUMPH. Great finger-picking exercises in that song!
Final thoughts?
Thanks again Nate for your time, Gone fishin!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with Brett Netson - Built to Spill/Caustic Resin

This makes me very happy. Brett Netson is the founding member, guitarist, and creative force behind Caustic Resin, one of my favorite bands of all time. He is also a full-time member of Built to Spill, and has toured with Mark Lanegan's band. I first met Brett in Athens Georgia on the last Caustic Resin tour. He was elbow deep in their van's engine but he still took the time to get Matt, myself, and our wives into the show for free. During that show he broke a string during one of the songs and changed it while he played. Try doing that sometime. Anyway, he has always been very cool to me and I am honored to have him on the page this week. Enjoy.

                                                                          All live photos by Carl Hamilton
1 – I like the handmade amp/cab you use (see below). I have never seen anyone with a rig like that. Can you talk a little about that amp?

Tweed deluxe circuit with 6L6 power tubes. English made vintage 30's. Speaker cab is wood from 100 year old house. Head box made in friends auto shop as fast as possible. Had the plan in my head for a long time.

2 – I know you have been touring a lot with Built to Spill, what are some of the coolest gigs you have done lately?

On a boat in the Hudson river NYC.

3 – What else is going on? Are you still doing Reversion?

Just recorded in a real studio. Finally.

4 – You once told me about playing in a band with your two kids. Can you talk about that?

It's like Caustic Resin but folkier. Like Crazy Horse/Mark lanegan ish. Bands have chemistry and with yr own kids its pretty deep. Not totally easy but very rewarding.

5 – What is your favorite unknown band?

Out here in the west I would say USX.
But um ... Cober, Wolvserpent, Helvetia.

6 – Are you still building hot rods, or any other cool machines?

My BB Chevelle has sat in the driveway all sad for a couple years. I've gotten more into motorcycles. 70"s 2 stroke flat track style bikes. Real wrapped up in gardening, hunting homesteading type shit. And government issue guns.WWI,II .45's. Cop shotguns,pistols etc.

7 – Who is your favorite guitar player of all time?


Yr gonna get five.
Joh Lee Hooker, Jimi, Ben Keith, Neil Young, Randy Rhodes.

8 – I noticed you are using a new mustang-style guitar body, but it looks like you have the neck from your old strat. Is that the case?

Yeah, it's a Jazzmaster body my friend Carl Hamilton made.
68 Tele Bigsby. Lindy Fralin pick-ups. Stripped the chrome with muriatic acid and a battery charger.

9 – I remember you had found a really nice old BC Rich Warlock when you came through NC that time, and you said you had always wanted one. What inspired your interest in pointy, metal style guitars?

Not just the shape but the whole handcrafted look that the early BC Rico ones had. I started my life with the guitar as metalhead in Jr high. Of the BOC,Iron Maiden,Deep Purple,Rush variety.

                                   (Brett back in the Caustic Resin days/by Pixie Merrick)

10 – What is your favorite weapon?

Fast Car-Torque wrench.
Pit Bull.
Can of carb cleaner.
WWI Colt 1911.

11 – You are from Idaho, a place with tons of Native American/tribal history. Have you had much contact with people from that culture? And if so, has it been an influence on your music.

Natives that I have hung with seem to have had a really rough time connecting with their heritage. Just like the most of us in the west. All I know is that most of my joy in music comes from the hypnotic nature of the Great Basin/Snake River and nature in general. All the stories and evidence of the Shoshoni/Sheepeaters are huge in my understanding of this area (Boise, Idaho/Great Basin). Been here my whole life and was introduced to nature here, then music. The Shoshoni have their pow-wow's and I have been to them and gotten a lot out of it, but as a dirty, white and culturally feral creature, I am hoping to be a part of some new heritage of open human animals of all past cultures. Really good rock bands serve the same purpose as healers right? Rock and Roll has given us all a great reference point to start from perhaps. If we can keep it real that is.
12 – In recent years, you and some of your friends have done some really cool video/film stuff. Can you talk about that?

Satire/absurdism. Kinda off color.

Technology now allows us to make these things cheaply. They are really just done to help all involved get this shit out of our heads so we can sleep at night & to stir up the hive mind. They are usually made real fast and can end up pissing people off and confusing us and others. Just like music.

13 – Who fights the good fight?

Buffalo Field Campaign. And all wildlife.

Question for Savage Throat:

What is a southerners perception of the west?
(not at all a trick question)
Sure man, I have always been fascinated by the American west. I guess it started when I was little, seeing it in books and movies. Westerns on tv. My wife and I took a trip out to the 4-corners area about 8 years ago, and it was everything I hoped it would be. We got to ride horses into Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, and I we took another ride through Monument Valley in Utah. I remember that there were skeletons everywhere, almost covering the ground. Sheep and cow bones mostly, but so many it was kind of hard to tell. I got to see a good bit of Navajo, Hopi, and Ute territory. We even went through the Apache reservation, which - other than Detroit or Memphis - is the roughest place I have ever been. The whole place was alien to me. The light is different, the air smelled foreign. The horses were different, same with the dogs and pretty much every other animal. I spent a good bit of time looking at the rocks, the dirt, the plants. I took it all in because I wanted to remember it. I hope I can get back out there sometime, I would love to see the Rockies. Steve from Neurosis lives in Idaho and one time we were talking on the phone and a moose walked through his yard. He says it is really wild out there. Yeah man, glad you love your home like I love mine. Good stuff Brett.
Nate - USX

Saturday, December 11, 2010

13 questions with Laura Pleasants from Kylesa

                                                                               Photo by Dorotea Robertson

1 – What was your first concert?

2 – Who fights the good fight?
I fight the good fight!

2 – What is your favorite music venue?
For sound: Webster Hall in NYC. For vibe and good times: anywhere in Poland

4 –Would you rather laugh with someone or at someone?
With someone. It's a cure-all.

5 – Do you believe in bigfoot? Explain.
 I would like to. I don't, but there are plenty big feet out there.

6 – Who has great guitar tone?
Wino and Steve from Black Mountain

                                                                      Photo by Ronan Thenady

7 – What books do you enjoy?
Children's books are the best

8 – Are you nocturnal or diurnal?
Depends on what's going on and where I am. I like the daylight a lot. I need the sunshine.

9 – How loud is too loud?
When the ear plugs don't work

10 – Matt from USX once put $5 in a jukebox and played Dwight Yoakum's cover of "Suspicous Minds" until someone unplugged the machine. If you had $5 for one song, and you were stuck in a place full of people you disliked, what song would you play?
Depends on the people. . . maybe some Hatred Surge.

11 – Do you have tinnitus?
Yes. : (

12 – What is your favorite instrument?

13 – What is your favorite unknown band?
Fluidage from Sweden

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

13 questions with WiIl Lindsay - Indian, Storm of Light

1 – What was your first concert?
My first concert was Tiffany at Knott's Berry Farm sometime in the '80s. My first rock concert was Queensryche in 1990.
2 – Who fights the good fight?
2 – What is your favorite music venue?
Berbati's Pan in Portland is one of the first ones that comes to mind. 013 in Tilburg is pretty great, too.
4 –Would you rather laugh with someone or at someone?
Hmmm. This would be really circumstantial.
5 – Do you believe in bigfoot? Explain.
I suppose it's possible, but I don't really have an opinion one way or the other. Bigfoot is much more believable to me than God, Satan, Tarot Cards, etc.
6 – Who has great guitar tone?
Well, a lot of people do. The last person I heard that really caught my ear was Josh Graham's tone the last time I played with A Storm of Light. He started using an OCD instead of the on-board distortion. Probably the best tone I've heard out of a Mesa. Of course, his amp isn't from the Rectifier series.
7 – What books do you enjoy?
I've been on a WWII kick the last few years. Right now I'm reading "Delivered From Evil" by Robert Leckie and "Comfort and Critique" by Peter Sotos.
8 – Are you nocturnal or diurnal?
It really varies depending on what else is going on in my life.
9 – How loud is too loud?
I don't know yet.
10 – Would you ever agree to be on Sesame Street, or do muppets frighten you?
Muppets don't frighten me. Sesame Street is still on the air?
11 – Do you have tinnitus?
Thankfully, not. I've become a fanatic about ear plugs these last few years, though.
12 – What is your favorite instrument?
Right now, I'm really enjoying playing bass, lap steel and synthesizer. But I always end up back at guitar. Pedal steel is probably my favorite to listen to, though. Provided it's a really good player.
13 – What is your favorite unknown band?
My Increment. An amazing band from Bakersfield that no one ever really got to hear of. They broke up in '96, I believe. Joel from that band now plays drums in Defeatist.

What's all this nonsense?

I am starting this page so I can have a space to write about music, discuss and share cool guitar/gear stuff, and to post photos and videos of live music. I may also film and post some of the juvenile pranks that I find so entertaining. Get with it.
Nate - USX