Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chron Goblin interview with Devin “Darty” Purdy, Richard Hepp, Josh Sandulak and Brett Whittingham

Fusing stoner metal with punkish psychedelia and an unending tap of limitless energy, Chron Goblin are seering their way to the finish line.  For more than four years, Chron Goblin have been serving up swirling stoner psych and there’s nowhere that’s more evident than on last year’s Life For The Living, Chron Goblin’s second full-length album.  The song structures are all air-tight, stoner psych imbued with the vigor and aggression of metal and armed to the teeth with distortion, feedback, sweat and a genetic urge to pay homage at the riff of the almighty riff!  A searing stew of heady distortion and fuzz mingles with menacing bass, rumbling deep in your ear like the hammering of a demon’s hand on the flimsy steal door that separates you from damnation and hell fire.  Yeah, Life For The Living’s like that.  It’s one of those rare metal albums that not only manages to keep you completely off center and guessing what to expect next, but where all the punches land where they should, effectively sweeping the listener off their feet into Chron Goblin’s own land of delightful carnage and charming havoc.  When the darkness does part and the band takes a breath from time to time, they exhale these twisted psychedelic wheezes of air, providing a much needed break from the utter destruction all around them.  Featured on the Pre-Rock Records compilation House Of Burners earlier this year, I was quickly hypnotized by Chron Goblin’s devastating riffage, shredding vocals and a rhythm section that could turn concrete to mud in about ten seconds flat with their ridiculously super-powered Neolithic hammerings.  So, I decided to track them down and in between tours, life and an insanely hectic schedule we managed to put together the following interview, and it’s one helluva interview if I do say so myself - enjoy!
Listen while you read:

I know you all have been around for like five years at this point from the fifth anniversary shirts and prints I saw in your online store, since you all have been around for a while have there been any changes to the lineup since you all started?  Who all is currently in Chron Goblin and what do you all play?

Devin “Darty” Purdy - Guitar
Richard Hepp - Bass Guitar
Josh Sandulak - Vocals
Brett Whittingham - Drums

Darty:  We formed the band in early 2009 after knowing each other for four years, as we all lived in the same residence building at the University of Calgary and shared a mutual love for music, beer and fine herbs.  This gave us the ability to form solid friendships first and a band second, which has resulted in us creating a Chron Goblin family.  That being said, we’ve not had any lineup changes. 

Are either of you in any other bands or do you have any side projects going on?  I love being able to look at rock family trees, but I have to admit my feelings aren’t hurt when I don’t have to do all the research myself, ha-ha!  Have you released anything with anyone else in the past, if so can you tell us about that?

Darty:  I was in my first band at the age of sixteen, a week after I picked up the guitar, and formed a band called Four Past Midnight.  We played one live show!  Brett and I were also in a band called Electric Plauge in which Brett took up drums for the first time.  The two of us were also in a metal band called Teitan for three years prior to forming Chron Goblin, with Brett playing bass in that band.  We recorded a handful of songs with the band, but never formally released anything.  We had a blast playing in the band, but always saw ourselves playing in a more “groove” based band as opposed to thrash metal.  Every now and then, members of our band will fill in for friends’ bands for shows when they’re down a member which is always a fun challenge.  Josh and Hepp were heavily involved with the music scene but haven’t played in any former bands. 

How old are you and where are you originally from? What was the local scene like there when you were younger? Did you see a lot of shows? Do you feel like that scene played an important part in shaping your musical tastes or in the way that you perform at this point?

Darty:  I was born and raised in rural Manitoba until I moved to Calgary at the age of fourteen.  As Manitoba was deprived of any all ages live music, I immersed myself in the music scene once I moved to Calgary.  Living in Calgary’s great, there are so many talented bands and live shows as our scene’s always been thriving.  My tastes started off with punk rock, moved to heavy metal, and upon discovering Sabbath, Kyuss, and Orange Goblin I became obsessed with what’s known as “stoner rock”.  I have constantly been going to live shows since I was thirteen years old and still go see at least one or two a week. 

Josh:  I was born and raised in Red Deer, Alberta and there wasn’t really a strong scene for music when I was growing up.  The only shows we really had access to, were all-ages punk shows at community centers, but then those would get flooded by skin heads, so it wasn’t really that cool to be around.  Our town always had an edge to it though.  I always found myself relating to the value system and ideals of politically motivated punk music, such as Propoghandi, Crass and Fugazi.  I guess in terms of performance, I just always felt people work hard for their money and they spend it on seeing you play.  You owe it to them to give everything up on stage.

Richard:  I’m twenty-eight and was born in Calgary, but did much of my growing up in London, UK.  I would say that growing up in England did do a lot for my musical upbringing.  I was in a suburb outside of London that was quite well-off, and many of my friends listened to pop music and garbage like that.  At the start, I was really complacent about the music around me and I didn’t care much.  Some of my friends that weren’t the most popular started sharing their musical tastes with me and I loved it.  Ska and punk blew my mind.  I fell in love with it and saw my first live show at the London Astoria with those same friends about two weeks after hearing it.  The band was called Capdown and was a London based ska band; unreal show.  I had a hell of a time convincing my parents to let me go into London with my friends, as I was only fourteen.

What about your household when you were a child?  Were either your parents of any of your relatives musicians or just extremely involved/interested in music?

Darty:  Music was always playing in my household growing up.  My mother plays piano and my dad plays a mean “air bass”.  Typical music playing in my house growing up was The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Paul Simon, Bob Marley, The Offspring, etcetera. 

Josh:  A lot of my musical discoveries happened when I found my Dad’s records.  But my family had always been into music in some way, it was always playing in our house.  I had a great grandma that sang opera and a grandpa that played in a jazz band.

Richard:  My parents liked a lot of the old Steve Winwood, Nazareth and Yes type stuff.  I was okay with it, I sang my heart out in the car, but it never made me want to be a musician or anything.  I had to branch out a little and find my own tastes, but it definitely helped me on my journey though.

What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?

Darty:  I always enjoyed music at a really young age, but my first real exposure wasn’t until I went to my first all-ages punk show at the age of thirteen featuring a band called Chemikill.  The live music experience really opened my eyes and sparked an interest in playing live music that will never burn out.  It blew my mind how much energy the band gave to the crowd, and how the crowd reciprocated that energy. 

Josh:  I guess my first real exposure to music was when I was fourteen, going to see Weezer in Edmonton.  I remember biking over to the record shop and trading in my Kriss Kross tape for this new thing called a “CD” when I was ten and that’s when I discovered Weezer; I dug the Blue.  Anyway, having somebody’s parent drive us up, and crowd surfing for my first time, and getting contact high…  It was an epic experience.

Richard:  After my first show in London, I started going to everything I got wind of.  Mostly punk shows like No Use For a Name and Strung Out.  At the same time, some of my close friends were in bands around the Guildford area where I lived, and still continue to be active.

If you were to pick a single moment, a moment that seemed to change everything for you and opened your eyes to the awesome possibilities of music, what would that moment be?

Darty:  We had accomplished a great deal with Chron Goblin in the early years, but when we were invited to play Desertfest in London, England in 2013 that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what this band could do.  At that time we hadn’t toured the United States yet, so for our first international show to be across the pond really blew our minds. 

Richard:  Every little milestone seems amazing when it happens.  I thought recording an album was a surreal experience.  Then, I heard our music on the radio and thought that was the coolest.  Then, we played the Underworld, a place I’d seen many of the bands I idolize play before and that blew my mind.  It just keeps getting better!

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?  What brought that decision about for you?

Darty:  The decision came quite naturally to me the moment I picked up a guitar for the first time.  I’ve always really enjoyed creating music, and the freedom and empowerment that comes with it.  I was never really into playing cover songs and always preferred to write original songs with other people.  Covers are fun, but nothing beats the feeling of finishing the creation of an original song that reflects your influences and your dedication to your craft. 

Josh:  I’m not sure when that moment really happened.  Music and the arts kind of always seemed to be the only thing I had an easier time with.  Sciences and math, etcetera kicked my ass, but music always seemed to make more sense to me.  So I’ve always pursued it in some capacity and then meeting these guys and developing a friendship and a mutual love for music, it’s been a really organic thing.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

Darty:  I started playing saxophone in grade 7 band, which is ironic as I can’t stand sax in songs these days.  I picked up guitar at the age of sixteen and have been hooked ever since.  I’m completely guitarded now with three half stacks, a full stack, nine guitars, and too many pedals to count.

Josh:  It was saxophone as well in grade 6.  My grandpa and great grandpa played, so I thought why the heck not?  I love it in jazz, but yeah…  That’s about it.

When did you all originally meet?

Darty:  We all met in 2004, as we lived in the same residence building attending the University of Calgary.  Josh, Hepp, and I even lived on the same floor, while Brett was just few floors below.   We sure partied our asses off in those days, not that that’s changed much.

How did Chron Goblin get started and when would that have been?

Darty:  Chron Goblin formed in early 2009 when Brett and I wanted to create a band more aligned to our influences of Sabbath, Kyuss, QOTSA, and Orange Goblin.  At the time, Josh was really interested in singing in a band, so after a few drinks we convinced him to try out...  And it turns out he had/has a fucking killer voice!  We then wrote a five song EP and recruited Hepp, who was previously a guitar player, to jump on board for bass duties a month before hitting the studio. 

I love the name it has this retro 50’s kind of feel to it to me.  Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing the name?  What does Chron Goblin mean or refer to?

Darty:  I was on a work crew that was full of “herbal enthusiasts” with the exception of one member who abstained.  One day, he called us a bunch of “Chron Goblins” and I immediately knew I would use that for a band name someday.  It didn’t take much convincing for the guys to take on the name as it was funny, memorable, and unique.  You could say a Chron Goblin is anyone who’s a fan of the herb. 

Is there any sort of shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?

Darty:  Work hard, play hard, party hard, and don’t take anything for granted. 

Where’s Chron Goblin at these days?

Darty:  We just finished our first US tour which was an absolute blast.  We got to perform with legendary acts like Red Fang, Lord Dying, Black Pussy, Yob, and Ancient Warlocks.  We have quite a few festival performances this summer as well as studio time booked at the end of September to record some demos to shop around for a different studio and a producer.  We’re also in the talks of returning to the UK for a tour and including dates in Europe this time.  We also just released a music video for“Bloodflow” that you should check out. 

What’s the local music scene like where you’re at these days?

Darty:  Calgary has a thriving music scene for all genres.  We’re very proud to call Calgary home, and proud to represent our City as we tour in other countries.  On any day of the week, you can go catch some amazing acts.  We have a lot of great venues that support the scene and our town is fortunate enough to catch most larger touring acts, which also gives the local talent an opportunity to open for those bands. 

Do you feel like you’re very involved in the local scene?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows?

Darty:  We utilize a combination of booking our own shows and being asked by promoters.  If we book our own shows, we usually hand pick who we would like to play with and the venue.  You can find us at pretty much every hard rock show in town as we love supporting our scene and listening to local talent.  We’ve also been involved with participating in youth music programs, fundraising and charity events, and assisting touring bands book shows and letting them crash at our place.  It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to our music scene. 

© Hatter Photo

Are you involved in recording or releasing and local music at all?  If so, can you tell is briefly about that?

Brett:  Aside from recording and releasing our own material locally, we don’t have too much involvement in local recording or releases.  We’ve all focused on the musicianship side of the things and don’t have much experience on the engineering side.  However, we’ve recorded and released all of our own material independently using locally and independently operated studios; Echo Base, Slaughterhouse, and Castronuovo Studios.  We’d really like to put together and release a compilation of local artists to showcase the great and diverse talent that Calgary has to offer.

Do you feel like the local scene’s played a large role in the history of Chron Goblin or do you all feel like you could be doing what you’re doing and sound like you do regardless of locations or surroundings.

Brett:  The local scene has been intrinsic to our development as artists and there’s no way we would have accomplished the things we have without its support.  Venues like The Palomino, Broken City, The Gateway, The Ship & Anchor, Vern’s, and Dickens Pub have given us the opportunity to hone our live performance and establish ourselves in the local scene.  Our goal is to continue touring and to establish ourselves on a national and international level, but Calgary will always be our home and our beginning.

We’ve talked a lot about the makeup of the band and your history but I’d like to talk a little bit about your sound for a while.  You all have a bunch of cool sounds kicking around in your music and I’m curious who you’d cite as your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Darty:  I grew up on ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers at home and really got into punk rock from the ages of nine to twelve.  I then picked up Master of Reality at the age of thirteen at a local record store and became obsessed with Sabbath; I still am, as you can tell by my giant Vol. 4 tattoo.  From this point on my influences became Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Orange Goblin, The Sword, Clutch, Danzig, Maiden, Karma to Burn, Leaf Hound...  I could go on forever.  I’m also majorly influenced by some amazing Canadian acts including 3 Inches of Blood, Bison, Barn Burner (RIP), Black Mastiff, Shooting Guns (Interview here), Black Thunder, and We Hunt Buffalo.  From a full band perspective, we have such diverse tastes it can be difficult to agree on mutual influences, but we certainly have some common ground which includes Black Sabbath, Propagandhi, Pink Floyd, Orange Goblin, The Sword, Black Mastiff, We Hunt Buffalo, etcetera. 

Josh:  Yeah, for myself I would say my biggest influences are the punk bands, at least in terms of energy and that kind of thing.  But I’ve always listened to music from all genres.  I’ve always found the phrasing and patterns in hip-hop really interesting and I’m a sucker for the soul hooks that you get in Curtis Mayfield, etcetera.  But my heart is in Rock n’ roll.  I’ve always thought Joe Cocker was where it’s at when it came to rock vocalists.

What’s the songwriting process like with Chron Goblin?  Is there a lot of jamming that happens when you all get together than you kind of distill and work out into a song or does someone maybe comes in with a riff?

Darty:  The framework usually begins with Brett and myself jamming out some riffs to get some basic structure going.  Hepp is great at adding some unique bass and working with Brett on the arrangements after the initial foundation is laid.  Josh writes all of his lyrics and is always able to add his unique style and phrasing to any wild ideas that we throw his way.  We definitely work very organically, pun intended, and never try to force or rush new ideas, but rather massage all of our ideas until we’re satisfied with the song. 

What about recording for Chron Goblin?  I think that most musicians can certainly appreciate the end result of all the hard work, time and effort that goes into making an album.  But getting to that point, getting everything recorded and sounding the way that you want it can really be a pain to say the least!  What’s it like recording for Chron Goblin?

Darty:  All recording can be stressful, but we try to always stay positive and keep a very open and supportive environment.  We can honestly say that the good times outweigh the negative ones, and we always have fun recording. 

Josh:  I feel like everyone always really “shows up” for recording.  The guys are always well rehearsed and have all their parts planned.  We really try and pull the most out of the time we get, so everyone has to be on point and be able to nail it in a few takes.  I think in the end, this just makes us a tighter band.

Do you all like to handle recording on your own DIY style or do you prefer to head into the studio and let someone else handle that side of things so you can concentrate on playing?

Darty:  We leave the recording to the experts.  We make sure that we focus on the preproduction and have as much prepared as possible before we go in the studio, and have a good idea of the direction and song structure.  We’ve always worked with a predetermined amount of time/days in the studio which has always allowed us to stay on track and time with releasing new albums.  Ideally, it would be great to have as much time as possible but having a definitive timeline allows us to move forward. 

Is there a lot of preparation that goes into a recording session for Chron Goblin where you spend a ton of time working out every part of a song?  Or do you all head into record with a good idea of what a song should sound like but give it plenty of room to change and breathe during the recording process?  Is there a lot of improvisation that’s involved when you all record or perform?

Darty:  We were very prepared for the recording of Life for the Living, which was a significant increase compared to our previous recordings.  We had ninety-percent of the album mapped out in advance and knew exactly what we wanted to achieve.  It makes the recording process much smoother.  That being said, we’re always open to new ideas and allow room for improvisation and creative change. 

Let’s take a little time and talk about your back catalog a little bit.  Your first release that I know of is the Chron Goblin self-titled CD EP from 2010.  Can you tell us about the recording of that first material?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?  When and where was that recorded?  Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?

Darty:  We recorded the EP in 2010 in our friend Marcello Castronuovo’s basement in Calgary.  He recorded it for next to nothing and used the mixing board from the 1988 Winter Olympics, which is pretty cool.  All of the songs were written before we had a bass player, which is pretty evident when I listen to the record now as it’s very guitar heavy.  I’m still super-proud of that EP, as it gave us the platform to move forward from.  It was a fun experience as we were younger, with less stress in our lives, and were just focusing on having a good time. 

How was the Chron Goblin EP originally released and distributed?  I assume that’s out of print at this point, but was it a limited release and if so, do you know how many copies it was limited to?

Darty:  All of our releases have been very DIY, and our EP was exactly that.  We produced 1000 copies ourselves by raising funds performing and selling t-shirts.  We still have approximately 500 left.  We sold, and still sell, the EP at shows and through our webstore.  The production on the EP’s not quite as good as our full-lengths, but we’re damn proud of it!

A year later in 2011 you followed up the EP with One Million from the Top which if I understand correctly if getting ready to go out of print.  Was the recording of the material for One Million from the Top very different than your earlier EP?  Do you feel like learned a lot from the recording of the previous EP?  Who recorded the One Million from the Top material?  When was that recorded and where was that?  What kind of equipment was used?

Brett:  That’s true!  I think we have about five copies of CDs of One Million from the Top left.  The recording process was a different experience with our first full-length album.  We recorded this project at Echo Base Studios with Casey Lewis and he has a different approach than Marcello Castronuovo.  Casey has a more established studio and more years of experience engineering and producing under his belt.  Recording the EP was losing Chron Goblin’s studio virginity.  Recording One Million from the Top was our second time in the studio, so we were still fairly studio-inexperienced and working with a new engineer was a unique experience.  Casey pushed us to do our best and we did many takes of each part to make sure it was as solid as it could be before Pro Tools was put to work.

While you all didn’t release any albums in 2012 or anything it proved to be a pretty busy year for you all none the less with several appearances on compilations that year.  There was an appearance on a live radio compilation but you all contributed the track, “Give No More” to the Palomino Smokehouse 12”.  I did a little bit of poking around but I couldn’t find out a whole lot about it.  Did you all write or record “Give No More” specifically for the Palomino Smokehouse release or was it something left over from one of your earlier sessions?  Was that a limited release?  If so, do you know how many copies it limited to?

Brett:  2012 was a busy year with lots of great shows and touring.  We played shows in Brandon, Manitoba; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Lethbridge, Aberta; as well as the Sled Island festival in our hometown.  We also had the opportunity to open for Bison and 3 Inches of Blood, both excellent Canadian metal bands that we’re influenced by.  We were approached by The Palomino to submit an unreleased track for their 2012 compilation, so we decided to work with Marcello Castronuovo again and we recorded the song “Give No More” with him at Slaughterhouse Studios.  This track was one of the first songs we wrote after releasing One Million from the Top and we felt it was a great track to submit for the Palomino’s annual compilation album.  I’m not sure exactly how many copies of the 2012 Palomino Smokehouse Compilation were released, but my guess would be between 200 and 300 vinyl records.  This was also our first track released on vinyl, so we were very excited about that at the time.

 © Hatter Photo
© Hatter Photo

You dropped your second full-length album last year (2013) Life For The Living.  While I seriously dig your first album, Life For The Living was a huge step forward in my opinion and the songs sound much more like your own unique sound that I’ve seen displayed live.  Did you all try anything new or radically different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for Life For The Living?

Brett:  We agree that Life for the Living was a big step towards finding and developing our own unique sound and style.  I think the songs are more cohesive, and stronger independently, than some of the tracks on One Million from the Top.  Playing most of the tracks on Life for the Living live throughout 2012 and 2013 really helped to make the studio performances stronger for all of us.  In the studio, we didn’t branch too far from the same approach we took with Casey on One Million from the Top, but this being our fourth time in the studio, we had a much better understanding of the process and what it takes to prepare and perform well.  We recorded ten tracks in thirteen days, which was a tight schedule, but it forced us to stay focused and productive and ensured we were very prepared going into the sessions.

Who recorded Life For The Living? When and where was that? What kind of equipment was used?

Brett:  As with One Million from the Top, Casey Lewis of Echo Base Studios recorded Life for the Living.  This session was in late May-early June 2013, immediately after we returned from performing at Desertfest in London.

Does Chron Goblin have any music that we haven’t talked about, maybe an appearance on a comp or a single that I might have missed?

Brett:  I can’t think of anything you’ve missed; you’ve done your homework!

With the release of Life For The Living in 2013 does Chron Goblin have any releases in the works or on the horizon at this point?

Darty:  We have studio time booked for September 2014 to record three to five demos to shop around for a producer and a studio.  We’re really excited about this, as we’ve never worked with a producer before and we’re looking to record in a studio with some history, and possibly outside of Canada for the first time.  Once we’ve selected a studio and producer we’ll continue to write the full album, so you can expect a new release in early 2015. 

With the completely insane international postage rate increases that don’t show any sign of letting up, I try and provide our readers with as many possible options as I can for picking up imports.  Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff?

Brett:  We have a US distribution deal with Heavy Ripples.  US reader can grab our CDs and vinyl here.

What about our international and overseas readers?

Brett:  As part of our deal with Heavy Ripples, we sell our music overseas through Clear Spot distribution.  You can find music through them here.  We also sell our releases through Ozium Records based out of Sweden.  You can find our stuff at their website here.

And where would the best places for our readers to keep up on the latest news from Chron Goblin like upcoming shows and album releases?

Brett:  We do our best to keep all of our social media outlets up to date.  You can find us in the following formats: our website, Facebook, Twitter: @chrongoblin and Instagram: @chrongoblin

Speaking of keeping up with stuff, are there any major plans or goals that Chron Goblin is looking to accomplish?

Brett:  We’re booked in the studio in September (2014) to record some demos of new material.  We plan to be back in the studio for spring 2015 to record another full-length album and we’re hoping to use the demos from the fall to secure an outstanding studio and producer.  We also plan to return to the USA for more touring, as well as make it back to the UK, and to Europe for the first time.

What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?

Brett:  We have some local shows coming up this summer, including performing at our hometown festival Sled Island on June 21st (2014).  We’ll be playing at Beaverfest Aug 30th in Valleyview, Alberta.  Aside from these few shows we don’t have much booked at the moment, as we’re focusing on writing new material.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring?  Do you enjoy touring?  What’s life like on the road for Chron Goblin?

Darty:  We tour as much as we possibly can while having jobs back home.  In the last year we’ve toured more than the rest of our careers combined.  We just completed our first US tour which was a damn blast.  We’ve had the opportunity to open for Vista Chino, Red Fang, Orange Goblin, 3 Inches of Blood, Bison, and The Devin Townsend Project which were all an absolute honor.  Personally, I live for touring.  I could do it for the rest of my life.  Some days are tough, as in Canada you have to drive a long distance to any new city, but playing to a new crowd makes it all worth it. 

Do you remember what the first song that Chron Goblin ever played live was?  When and where would that have been?

Darty:  The first song that we ever wrote was called “Walk With Me”.  I can’t exactly recall if that was the first song we every played live...  But it certainly could have been.  Our first bar show was in early 2010 at a small pub in Calgary, while we had played our five songs from the EP at various house parties in late 2009.  I do remember our first house party show we only had the five songs…  So we played all five twice and everyone at the party was too drunk to realize we’d already played them before. 

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share with our readers?

Darty:  My personal favorite had to be the first time we played with Bison.  Their drummer Matt lit a joint and put it in my mouth during the intro to “Give No More”.  Security freaked out and came over to give us shit and then Matt grabbed the doobie and put it out on the ground.  Had we not been in the bands playing, we definitely would have gotten kicked out.  Another funny memory that comes to mind would be Hepp playing in Saskatoon with Shooting Guns.  The beer lineup was crazy, so right before we go on he decides to get a pitcher of beer with three shots of vodka in it.  Hepp can drink like a tank so manages it quite well, but it was hilarious to see people’s faces when they took a sip from his pitcher.  That night ended with the band taking some “tussin” for a “quality” sleep. 

© Ryan Rocka Rolla Brady of Glory Guts Photography Productions

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band like flyers, posters, shirts and other stuff?  I seriously dig the hell out of what I can only guess is your Rat Fink inspired design!  Is there any kind of message or meaning that you’re trying to convey with your art?  Do you usually turn to anyone in particular during your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing, if so who is that and how you originally get hooked up with them?

Brett:  We love collaborating with artists to achieve a variety of visual representations of our music.  Logan Morrison has done a fantastic job for the artwork of our last two releases, as well as a few shirt designs.  He’s from Calgary but lives in Vancouver working as a tattoo artist at Tattoo Union.  We met him through our pals in Witchstone.  Deano Robertson’s also done a bunch of logos and designs for us, including the hilarious Rat Fink-inspired shirt you mentioned.  He’s a tattoo artist currently working at Immaculate Conception.  We got to know him as the legendary Stoner Rock Guy; he’s a huge champion for music and is always attending and promoting local shows and bands, as well as stoner rock music internationally.  He’s well known in the community and an amazing human all around.  We’ve also worked with Dominic Soho, a UK artist, and we’re currently working on a new design with David Paul Seymour who’s done artwork for some of the best bands out there right now including The Sword, Kadavar, Graveyard, Red Fang, Church of Misery, Lordy Dying, Truckfighters, and Earthless.  We’re also working with Gabriel Shaffer on a new shirt design, lots of new stuff on the way!  We’re often inspired by tattoo artists, as you can tell from our collaborations with Logan Morrison and Deano Robertson.  I think we’re also attracted to art of a psychedelic nature, although we don’t typically have a specific goal in mind when we work with an artist.  We hope the artist interprets our music and puts their style to use to create something unique, powerful and just generally badass-looking!

Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music?  With all of the various mediums that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the methods of release that they do.

Brett:  I think we’d all agree that vinyl records are our favorite medium for music, both in terms of our own releases as well what we purchase as music collectors.  There’s more room for artwork and the whole listening experience is much more tangible and interactive.  We all download music, but if we don’t pay for a digital download, we always make sure to buy a band’s merch or tickets to their shows. 

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Brett:  We all collect vinyl and are working on building our own collections.  Some of my favourites that I own are Time Traveling Blues by Orange Goblin, Prior to the Fire by Priestess, Hisingen Blues by Graveyard, the Self-Titled and Abra Kadavar albums by Kadavar, Queens Of The Stone Age’s Rarities & B-sides, The Action is Go by Fu Manchu, Dap Dippin’ from Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Welcome to Sky Valley, And the Circus Leaves Town, and Blues for the Red Sun by Kyuss.  I also inherited a bunch of original Canadian pressing Beatles 45’s from my grandmother as well as some Elvis and other classic pop stuff from the late 50’s to early 60’s.

Darty:  I have a massive collection of vinyl that started with inheriting about two hundred records from my old man.  I then spent a ton of time collecting heavy metal and stoner rock vinyl albums.  If I had to pick my five favorite vinyl albums they would be Orange Goblin’s Eulogy for the Fans, the Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age split, Red Fang’s Murder the Moutains Pizza Picture Disc, Belzebong’s Sonics Scrapes & Weedy Grooves (Interview here), and the best of all Black Sabbath, Live at Last.  The Sabbath live album is hilarious...  Ozzy singing all kinds of improvised lyrics, out of tune guitars, random space jazz odyssey jams, and medleys of numerous Sabbath songs within one jam.  

I grew up around an enormous collection of vintage garage, psychedelia and blues, but beyond that I was really encouraged to dig in and enjoy it from a young age.  In fact I was encouraged to listen to just about anything that floated my boat.  There was something about popping an album into the player, kicking back with a pair of headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover artwork and letting the whole experience transport me off to another place.  There’s something about having a physical object to hold in my hands and experience along with the music that made for a more complete listening experience.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Brett:  I couldn’t agree with you more!  That’s why vinyl’s the best listening experience.  Although, even as a kid when I would buy a new CD or tape cassette, I would do the same thing: headphones on, volume up, unfold the liner notes and explore all of the lyrics and info about the band and that particular recording.  That’s the sad part about so much music being listened to in purely digital formats these days; you really don’t get as much of an opportunity to connect the physical artwork with the music.

As much as I love my music collection I would be lying if I didn’t say I love my digital music collection as well.  Being able to take stuff on the go with me for the first time has really changed the way that I listen to and enjoy my collection.  But taking stuff on the go is just the beginning, when you team it with the internet that’s when digital music gets really interesting.  Together they’ve exposed people to an entire universe of music that they otherwise would never have heard of led a long had the chance to listen to and interact with.  It’s eradicated a lot of the boundaries that being located in isolated or strange surroundings created.  It’s not all peaches and cream though, illegal downloading is running absolutely rampant right now, a lot of people feel like music is becoming this sort of disposable experience to be used and then forgotten and it’s harder than ever to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and the internet?

Brett:  The internet and file sharing is definitely a double-edged sword.  It’s allowed many bands, including us, to expand their networks internationally and share their music with places they may never get a chance to tour.  We recently had a person from Morocco message us on a Facebook asking where he could buy our CD!  We were so impressed by his interest in our band that we mailed him one for free.  Being able to share music, pictures and video digitally has really helped us gain ground as a band and to connect with people worldwide.  As a growing band, the internet and file sharing has definitely helped us rather than hindered us.  I’d rather someone downloads our music for free than not listen to it.  Potentially that listener may share our album with a couple of people, and they may end up coming to our show and buying merch and/or physical copies of our music.  That being said, if people never purchase music or merch or buy concert tickets, then musicians simply won’t have a future.  We put thousands of hours into learning our instruments, rehearsing as a band, writing songs, recording songs, playing shows, going on touring, and managing the business end of being a band.  We put thousands of dollars in to our craft to be able to play music, record our material, and release it.  All we ask, is that if you’re interested in our music, come to a show and if you like what you hear, buy a t-shirt or a record to help keep us doing what we love to do.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but I swear there’s just not enough time in the day to keep up with one percent of the amazing stuff out there!  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of before?

Brett:  There’s tons of current great local and area music going on!  Here’s a list of some of my favourites: Witchstone, doom n’ roll, Cowpuncher, western grunge, Temple, rock/metal, High Kicks, bass n’ drums party rock, and Mallard who do rock n’ roll.  All from Calgary.

What about nationally and internationally?

Brett:  Here are some national and international bands I’ve been digging: We Hunt Buffalo, fuzz rock from Vancouver, Black Thunder, progressive stoner rock from Regina, Black Mastiff, rock and roll, they’re from Edmonton and just recorded a new album with John Garcia producing!  There’s Bison, metal from Vancouver, Shooting Guns, progressive instrumental psych rock from Saskatoon (Interview here), Ancient Warlocks, riff rock from Seattle, and Sandrider, riff rock also from Seattle.

Darty:  Montreal’s Barn Burner (RIP), Buzzard and Black Wizard from Vancouver, and Daywalker from Calgary.

Thanks so much for doing this behemoth of an interview!  It was awesome learning so much about the band and I hope it was either fun or at least entertaining looking back at everything you’ve managed to accomplish in the last few years.  Before we call it a day and sig off though is there anything that I might have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?

Darty:  We’d like to thank our friends, family, and fans who have supported us along our rock and roll journey!  We wouldn’t be here today without your support!  Cheers and beers!

(2010) Chron Goblin – Chron Goblin EP – CD – Chron Goblin Entertainment (Limited to 1000 copies)
(2011) Chron Goblin – One Million from the Top – digital, CD – Chron Goblin Entertainment (Limited 1000 copies - less than 20 left)
(2012) Various Artists – Palomino Smokehouse 2012 – 12” – Palomino Smokehouse Self-Released (Limited to ? copies. Chron Goblin contribute the track: “Give No More”)
(2012) Various Artists – Sonic Theories: Live Sessions From CJSW 90.9 FM // 2012 – 2xCD – CJSW (Chron Goblin Contribute the track: “One Million From The Top”)
(2013) Chron Goblin – Life for the Living – digital, CD, 12” – Chron Goblin Entertainment (12” limited to 550 Vinyl, 500 CD’s)
(2014) Various Artists – House Of Burners – digital, CD – Pre-Rock Records (Limited to 1000 copies. Chron Goblin contribute the track: “Deserter” from Life For The Living)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Protons interview with Dan “DNA” Lauby, Tom “The Gent” Manning, MJ “Number Six” Woodis and Matt “Dark Matter” Dark

People need more good surf music in their life.  I get so tired of people listening to the same Ventures albums over and over, only switching them out with Dick Dale or Davie Allan, or something!  There’s some of the best ever instrumental surf rock ever going out there right now, I just don’t hear many people talk about it these days.  The Protons are riding the wave high and hard though, screw hanging ten, these dudes are hanging riff and they’re not afraid to drop it like a tidal wave on unsuspecting coastal cities and settlements that lie in the wake!  This is some seriously out there sci-fi garage rock in the vein of Man or Astroman? blended with the gnarly, nasty blues infused surf psychedelia of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and they bring plenty of their own flavor to the table along with an uncanny ability to go from zero to sixty, and then back again on the drop of a dime; shifting between blistering psychedelic, garage rock riffage and some awesome mid-tempo, toe-tapping, instrumental surf.  The Protons debut album Out of Phase delivers some of the catchiest, most out there surf rock I’ve heard in a long time harkening back to bands like The Arrows and Link Wray paying homage to all of the traditional facets and sounds that have paved the way for everything that’s come since whiel infusing it all with an energy that’s sorely lacking in most contemporary surf bands.  Songs like “The Explanatory Gap” almost have a punkish swagger to them as well, a bravado that carries the fractured guitar and rumbling bass across the glassy surface of the drums pounding away like the ebb and flow of the tide on the walls of a cliff straight into the deepest parts of your subconscious.  You can hear the mighty echo of The Protons in the distorted reverberation spilling into the echo and clatter of noise, the hammering of the bass strings like the striking of a hammer on a blacksmith’s anvil along with some sinisterly cunning drums lines, again encompassing all that’s holy and right about surf while interjecting some much needed energy and life.  If songs like “Attack of the Cybermen”, “My Robot is Drunk!”, “I Miss the Smell of Tear Gas” and my above description aren’t enough to get you to listen to The Protons then hopefully the following interview will be.  All four current members weighed in on where The Protons have come from, everything they’ve managed to accomplish and just where they think they’re headed from here, prepare for hyper jump in three, two, one…
Listen while you read:

What’s the lineup in The Protons at this point?  Is this the original lineup or have you all made any changes since the band started?

The Gent:  It’s not the original lineup.  Our original bass player was Johnny Proton.  He moved away in Spring 2013.  We were very fortunate to find the New Number 6 shortly afterwards.

DNA:  No, the original lineup was: Major Tom, Dark Matter, ProTom and DNA.  Unfortunately ProTom had to move, but after tons of tryouts we found Number Six for bass guitar who was a great choice because he fits musically and personality-wise with the band. 

Dan “DNA” Lauby – lead guitar
Matt “DarkMatter” Dark – rhythm guitar
Tom “The Gent” Manning – drums
MJ “Number Six” Woodis - bass

Are any of you in any other bands or do you have any other side projects going at this point?  Have you released anything with anyone in the past?  Can you tell us a bit about it if you have?

Number Six:  After moving up to Portland, Oregon from San Francisco several years ago, I played bass in the acid-spiked psych-rock band The Pink Snowflakes, prior to joining the Protons.  The Snowflakes self-released an EP, a 7”, two full-lengths, and did a fair amount of touring in support. 

DarkMatter:  No real side projects going on at this point.  I’m currently working on clawhammer banjo and have plans to start a string band before I die.  I’ve released ghetto home-style recordings with my other surf bands The Microwaves and The Beastniks.

The Gent:  The Banned was a group I played drums in for years in New York with two of my bothers.  We were very active locally and would also go on roadtrips throughout the country.  We put out our own releases.  A lot of it can be found and listened to for free at The Banned archive.

DNA:  I have been in one surf-oriented band and a couple straight rock bands. 

How old are you and where are you originally from?

Number Six:  I’m 33 now, and grew up in New England, several thousand miles away from the Left Coast.  I also spent about five years in San Francisco, prior to moving up to Portland in 2008.

DarkMatter:  30, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Gent:  Thirty-four. Yonkers, New York.

DNA:  34.  I originate from the Russet potatoes you eat.

What was the local scene like when you were growing up?  Did you see a lot of shows or were you very involved in the scene where you grew up?  Do you feel like it played a large role in shaping your musical taste or in the way you perform at this point?

Number Six:  I grew up in a small hometown that, at the time, didn’t take super-well to youth creativity or expression.  That didn’t seem to prevent a core of kids from the area from putting together punk rock and indie outfits, though.  Cops were always bagging us for skateboarding or making noise, even though those were the exact things that were keeping us out of real trouble.  With the music, we got a lot of the noise complaints, forced show shut-downs, etcetera.  I think a lot of the experiences instilled an anti-everything sentiment in us, which I think really had a direct effect on my musical tastes and goals.

DarkMatter:  Warehouse21 was a non-profit dedicated to the youth arts scene in the Santa Fe.  I was extremely lucky to be a part of it.  There were underage shows every weekend, and lots of touring bands.  I got to open up for/see bands like Devotcka, Polysics, Frank Jordan, and SNMNMNM.  They had weekly workshops that taught me how to promote shows, use recording equipment and be on college radio.  The place is still going and the kids in Santa Fe are lucky to have it, if you read this, donate money to them.

The Gent:  The New York City scene that I was involved in at the time, the mid- to late-nineties, was very street punk; The Krays, TheTruents, Blanks 77, L.E.S. Stitches, the Wretched Ones, etcetera.  There was hardcore and fashion punk stuff and TV-friendly type bands, too.  If you were to form a Venn diagram with all of the bands, you'd probably see mostly influences from early British bands and East Coast stuff.  But when you have a scene that's thriving like that, I think you begin to influence each other.  Influences become indirect, or secondary.  For instance, I might be heavily influenced by a guy or a band and I don't even know where they've copped their shtick from because we don't listen to the same things, but my band plays with theirs or whatever.

DNA:  I call Olympia, Washington my home.  I was there when Kurt Cobain lived there.  I went to shows at Evergreen State College.  I learned about music in the midst of the “grunge” scene, and it was absolutely a huge influence on me.  I strongly believe in the melody and passion of a song rather than the technical, formatted, forced song/idea. 

What about your house when you were a kid?  Were either your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely interested or involved in music?

Number Six:  There was a strange irony in my life where I did get a bass guitar for Christmas, after proving I could spend some time learning how to play an acoustic guitar, but once the amplification came into play, I wasn’t really allowed to play at the house.  Luckily, I had a couple of friends who had the available garage or basement, or attic at one point, for practicing with a group.

The Gent:  Parents, no.  My older brother plays bass and drums and guitar.  One of my younger brothers plays guitar.  The three of us played in a band together.

DNA:  Apparently my grandfather was quite the banjo player and both my grandmothers were piano players.  My sister is an amazing singer, soprano, who studied music in college.

What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?

DarkMatter:  I went to my first show when I was thirteen or fourteen.  I saw a punk band called Regicide, a blues/rock band called Sour Mash and a Reggae-ish band called Creation.  It was the first time for me, that being involved in music became a reality.  I started going to shows weekly after that.

The Gent:  My mom probably sang me lullabies or kids' songs when I was an infant and toddler.  Or I learned that stuff in my earliest school years.  Other than that, I do recall Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" on the living room turntable and Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" on the tapes in the car.  My Dad liked Bruce Springsteen a lot.

DNA:  Again, it was within the “grunge/punk” movement in the Northwest.

If you were to pick a single moment of music, a moment that seemed to change everything and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of it all, what would it be?

Number Six:  I’m probably going to sound existential in this reply, but I remember one time having a profound enjoyment of Steve Reich’s Drumming album while on a healthy amount of mushrooms.  That really helped establish in my mind that there’re a lot of ways to go with music in general.  However, I have to admit that I was probably already starting to amass a pretty eclectic selection of music by that point anyway.

DarkMatter:  See above…  Or one of the times I did mushrooms.

DNA:  That’s a hard one.  I suppose, the first time I experienced a live local band, Fitz of Depression, playing in a basement in Olympia.  It opened my mind and showed the power and impact a band could have, that there’s something in life other than the expected “careers” that society expects.

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?  What brought that decision about for you?

The Gent:  I decided I wanted to be in a band that wrote their own material as soon as I got into punk at fifteen.  At that age, I realized it was possible and it wasn’t about being great or impressive, it was just about doing it; the point of entry had been lowered in my mind.  Suddenly, I realized that the bands I was impressed with wrote their own songs and play at legitimate venues.  What I wanted to get away from were the bands that exclusively played high schools and did poor covers of songs on the Music Television Channel.

DNA:  When my friend who introduced me to playing guitar showed me I could play anything I wanted rather than learning other band’s songs.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

DarkMatter:  My first instrument was the coronet.  My uncle had one laying around, so I joined band in third grade.  I really, really sucked at the coronet.

The Gent:  Drums.  I got my first kit when I was thirteen.  It was partially a confirmation present from my parents and I paid for half of it with money that I'd been saving from my paper route.  I suppose the real gift was that they were saying, "Okay, we love you enough that we'll put up with the obnoxiousness of you trying to learn this unavoidably loud instrument while we're trying to do anything else with our lives in our own home, which should be the one place where we can find peace!"

DNA:  Harmonica.  My parents bought one for me when we walked through a music shop.  I was around ten years old.

When and how did you all originally meet?

DarkMatter:  The Gent and I met at a coffee shop that we both worked at.  We started jamming and a few weeks later I answered DNA’s Craigslist ad.  The (New) Number 6 was a Craigslist find too.
The Gent:  I met Dark Matter when I took a job at a coffee shop here in Portland.  He was the resident chain-smoking latte artist and I ascertained that he played guitar and liked a lot of music that I liked.  DNA was one of those rare gifts of Craigslist.  He was looking to do nearly the same type of band that Dark Matter was and he had quite a number of songs written and recorded on his home computer, so it came together really very quickly.  The (New) Number 6 was another case of a well timed Craigslist find.  He had taken a break from music after making a real go of it with his last band and feeling a little overloaded.  He was looking to get into things right after our original bass player, Johnny Proton, had moved away, and it was simply a really good fit.  He came in right after we put out our 7" record last year.

DNA:  Hmm…  It was about three years ago.  I put up a random Craigslist post for others in to the surf style.  Dark Matter contacted me with interest.  He was already practicing with our drummer Major Tom. We met up to try things out and it just clicked.

What led to the formation of The Protons and when would that have been exactly?

The Gent:  What led to the formation was that Dark Matter was longing to play music with other people and be in a band again.  He wanted to do surf, specifically.  I was playing with some other guys at the time, The Towering Trees, and so me and Matt would get together at The Trees practice space and play a bit, just drums and guitar.  I think we tried out a bass player or two before we got a hold of DNA.  This would have been exactly the Fall of 2010.  I believe we first met DNA in November and by January 2011 we had found Johnny Proton and were playing songs that would make it onto the 7", and that we still play live today.

Where are The Protons located at this point?

Number Six:  Portland, Oregon.

DNA:  Portland, Oregon.  Support your local breweries!

How would you describe the local scene where you all are at?

The Gent:  We're not really part of a scene.  However, there are a number of good surf bands in the city, and we seem to know each other.  We've played more than once with bands like The Planet Crashers, King Ghidora, and Wavesauce.

DNA:  Portland’s very diverse and has some great bands.  Though, I feel the music scene is a bit stale.  I think the opportunity for bands to showcase and get exposure is difficult.  Unfortunately, I feel like it’s a touring town.  Bands that come through have more opportunity then the local groups. 

Do you feel like you’re very involved in the local scene?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows?

Number Six:  I’ve been fairly involved throughout town since moving up to Portland, and have played quite a few shows with previous projects or filling in on random shows for friend’s bands.  I try to catch any friends from outside Oregon that tour through, and do my best to keep up with the projects of my friends, when time permits.

The Gent:  No.

DNA:  Not really.  I’m an introverted person.  As far as booking, I believe we’ve only booked two shows in our “career”.  Really all of our shows come from other people asking us to play.  I guess, that’s a good thing?

Are you involved in recording or releasing any local music at all?  If so, can you tell us about that briefly now?

Number Six:  I run a mini art/music label called PsychoNot Art and have released several projects from local, and not-so-local, friends.  Additionally, I’ve filled in on various recordings that friends have done.  Most recently, my friend Joel Magid just released his second full-length record which has a handful of overdub tracks that I helped with.  His project has more of a 60s/indie edge to it; kinda like if Ray Davies had grown up in a punkier garage band before starting The Kinks.

The Gent:  Not presently.  For years, I did double duty, playing drums in The Protons and in The Towering Trees.  I'm no longer with them, but we released a full-length LP toward the end of 2013 that has really great songs on it.  I'm proud of that release; it's called Hangover Hearts.

DNA:  Only The Protons.

Has the local scene played a large or important role in the formation, sound, history or evolution of The Protons or do you feel like you all could be doing what you are, and sound like you do, regardless of where you were located at or what you were surrounded by?

Number Six:  I think the band united based on a personal desire from everyone to be involved in some kind of surf-ish project that was more than just “surf”.  Everything affects everything else and stuff, but we’re primarily in it for the fun of doing what we’re doing.

The Gent:  No and yes, as long as the four of us could get together.  I don’t think our surroundings play a major role.

DNA:  My prior influences are definitely rooted in the Northwest, though the groups that have driven me into this ‘genre’ of music are nowhere near, except, of course, for Satan’s Pilgrims, Surf Trio, Galaxy Trio, among others.

I love the name and it summons these images of like, lasers and electrons and power-beams or something, ha-ha!  Who came up with the name and what does it mean or refer to?  How did you all go about choosing it?

Number Six:  I’m a late-joiner, but rumour on the street has it that there was a typo on the first show flier, and that it was supposed to be “The Brotons”.  Hopefully that rumor is bunk.

DarkMatter:  DNA came up with it after a long battle deciding.  Once we said it, we all just kind of knew that would be the name.

DNA:  After weeks of throwing names around, I was lying in bed reading and it just hit me.  I emailed the rest of the guys saying this is the name, and they agreed.  It’s refers to science, which includes the exploration of how the hell we’re able to exist on this floating rock.

Is there any sort of shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?

DNA:  No.

DarkMatter:  Pizza and Beer.

The Gent:  Pizza and Beer

Number Six:  …and Gin.

How would you describe The Protons sound to our readers who might not have heard you before in your own words?

Number Six:  I used the term “sci-fried surf rock” for our one-sheet recently, and feel that the shoe fits pretty well.

DarkMatter:  Have you heard the Pulp Fiction soundtrack?  It sounds like that.

DNA:  Instrumental surf/rock group that is instrumental!  With a twist of Einstien, Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles.  Oh, and beer of course; this is Portland, breweries in your backyard.  Go ahead, call us beer snobs.

You guys have some cool influences, and while some of them are kind of apparent when listening to your stuff it feels like there’s a lot more going on underneath the surface.  Who are some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

DarkMatter:  My major influences are old country/blues/jazz guys, Skip James, Blind Boy Fuller, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, The Carter Family.  Stuff like that.  Influences for the band would definitely be Man or Astro-man?, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and Satan’s Pilgrims.

DNA:  I can’t speak for the whole band.; especially since we all come from diverse influences.

What’s the songwriting process with The Protons like?  Is there someone who comes to the rest of you with a riff or more finished idea for a song to finish with the rest of you?  Or do you all get together and just kind of jam out, kicking ideas back and forth until you work out a song from that process?
Number Six:  Ever been to the dentist?

DarkMatter:  DNA would definitely be called the brains of the operation.  He usually has a blueprint all laid out and teaches us our parts.  After that, we all just kind of tweak our parts or give suggestions to each other.  We all have a good working relationship as far as that stuff is concerned.

DNA:  I generally write the songs and bring them into practice.  Though, fortunately others have brought in their own songs/ideas recently and we’re all working out new ideas together which I think is important.  It gives the band a more diverse sound.

What about recording?  I think that most musicians can appreciate the end result of all the time, hard work and effort that goes into making an album.  Getting to that final point though, getting everything to sound the way that you want, and especially doing that as a band, can be extremely stressful to say the least!  What’s it like recording for The Protons?

DarkMatter:  Oh man, recording is fun.  Tim Shrout at Badlands recorded us.  We did the whole thing in one day with about three or four takes per song.  DNA did all the mastering.

The Gent:  It's like, we practice the hell out of whatever songs we might think we're recording so that we can play it live in a room together and just press record.

DNA:  We are a live band.  We record live.  Other than adding sound clips or atmospheric sounds, it is what it is.  

Do you all prefer to take a DIY approach to recording where you handle most aspects on your own or do you head into a studio and let a technician take over that side of tings so you can concentrate on performing?

DNA:  We prefer the DIY approach.  It gives us more musical freedom and is much more affordable.

DarkMatter:  I’m very for the DIY side of things and that was the beauty of finding Tim Shrout.  He heard us and just knew what to do.  None of us tried to micro-manage him or anything and I think that helped to make the recording great.  Just let the man work!

The Gent:  We've really only had one recording session as a band, and that one session covers songs from The Explanatory Gap 7" and the Out of Phase full-length.  Tim Shrout of Badlands Studios was the engineer on that, and I think it was very cooperative.  He was open to having as much, or as little, input as we deemed necessary, and I think we took some cues from him in some areas, and in a lot of way we already knew exactly what we wanted to do.  DNA did the mixing and mastering for both releases, so in that way we handled a lot of the recording process in-house.

Is there a lot of preparation that goes into a recording session for The Protons getting songs to sound just the way that you want them to with every change and arrangement worked out and finely tuned?  Or do you all get a good idea of what a song should sound like and then give it room for change and variation during the recording process?

DNA:  We like to go prepared.  We will play a song over and over until we’re all happy with it.  Though, we are open to spontaneous changes.  When you’re in a recording environment, dynamics can change we’re always open to outside input.

The Gent:  We go in to recording with a very specific idea in mind and it's more about execution than it is about creation, by that point.  However, I'm sure if we made late discoveries that something different was working out better than whatever it had been that we practiced, we would follow that energy and make room for those new ideas.

DarkMatter:  We’re a very tight band and the songs have a very specific layout.  The last thing we could ever be called is a jam band or anything like that. 

Your first release that I’m aware of is the self-released 2013 four-track 7” single, The Explanatory Gap.  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for The Explanatory Gap?  When and where was that recorded at?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?  I know that The Explanatory Gap is still available from you, is that a limited release at all?  If so, do you know how many copies it’s limited to?

DarkMatter:  Both the first EP and the full-length were recorded on the same day by Tim Shrout at Badlands.  I think it was June or July of 2012?  Maybe 2013, these things are hard to keep track of.  I used a Fender Deluxe Reverb, Gretsch 6120 DSW and some pedals.  I was going to use my Fender Reverb Unit but DNA’s crapped out about five minutes before the first take of the first song.  After I threw a little fit, I decided to let him use my reverb unit because he’s important and stuff.
The Gent:  July 2012 with Tim Shrout at Badlands in Northeast Portland.  Pro Tools?  I don't really know what equipment he uses specifically.  DNA could probably tell you.  Tim operates a home studio, though.  It's not some elaborate set-up with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment.  The EP’s a limited release, but still available.  We only printed 300 copies.

DNA:  We used limited mics, only three or four on the drums.  We believe in capturing the live feel.  We don’t sit around doing overdubs all day.  Just go in and play as we would live.

You all are getting ready to release your debut full-length album Out Of Phase really soon through Deep Eddy Records.  If I understand right the songs from Out Of Phase are from the same session(s) as The Explanatory Gap?  If that’s true, are they being mastered and mixed at the same place as before?

The Gent:  Yes, DNA mixed and mastered both releases.

DarkMatter:  Yup!  DNA did all the mixing/mastering at the same time as the EP.  We’ve been sitting on those tracks for a while.  The (New) Number 6 was really the catalyst for putting this album out.  Good man.

Number Six:  Please note that we’re only planning to use Deep Eddy for distribution at this time.  I don’t believe this is a specific release under their name.

When was Out Of Phase released?  What can our readers expect from the new album?

Number Six:  Out of Phase was released on March 14th, 2014.  All listeners should prepare for thirty-three minutes of garage, western, prog, spacey, surf-rock.

I know that you all have made several appearances on compilations as well but from what I understand those tracks have all either been released as part of the Explanatory Gap single or are going to be featured on the upcoming Out Of Phase album.  Are there any tracks that are exclusive to compilations or are there any of those tracks that are different recordings or masterings of the tracks?

DarkMatter:  Wait, no one told me we were on any compilations.  Where can I get one?

The Gent:  No tracks would be exclusive to compilations with other bands.  All of the material that we’ve recorded for release so far was recorded in a single session.

With the release of Out Of Phase rapidly approaching, do The Protons have any other releases planned or in the works at this point?

Number Six:  We could answer this for you now, but then we’d have to kill you.  And you’ve been so nice thus far.

DarkMatter:  Nah, we have a few new songs that we need to get down but no active plants to release anything.

The Gent:  We have newer songs that we’ve been playing for some time and want to record soon, hopefully summer 2014.

Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your music?

Number Six:  You can find our music online on our website, or via all of the classic download sites, such as iTunes, Amazon, etcetera and Spotify/Rdio, too, if you’re into that awful streaming model that’s so popular these days.

DNA: allows you to purchase a digital download as well as iTunes and CD Baby.  You can order physical copies through our website and CD Baby.

With the completely idiotic international postage rate increases that have taken place over the past few years I try and provide our readers with as many possibly options for picking up imports as I can.  Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to grab your stuff?

DarkMatter:  Oh geez.  Yeah, good luck with that.

Number Six:  Actually, the digital downloads should be available worldwide, so that’s the default option.  Otherwise, you can purchase physical copies via CD Baby and they’ll be happy to ship internationally to you.

DNA:  Definitely on-line.

And where’s the best place for our readers to keep up on the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases at?

Number Six:  Facebook and the Twatter are options – you can find some links on our site.

DarkMatter:  Our Twitter might be the best place: @theprotons.

DNA: has links to all our social sites that include music, picturess, videos, reviews and show updates.

Are there any major plans or goals that The Protons are looking to accomplish in 2014?

DarkMatter:  Play shows, eat pizza and drink beer.

Number Six:  …And gin.

DNA:  Playing more live shows and getting music out to a wider audience.

What, if anything, do The Protons have planned as far as touring goes for 2014?

DNA:  Not at this time.  We perform a lot in Portland, Oregon and the surrounding areas.

Do you remember what the first song that The Protons ever played live was?  When and where would that have been at?

DarkMatter:  I don’t remember the first song, but our first show was at Langano Lounge here in Portland.  It was fun.

The Gent:  “The Night Agent Dunby Lost His Keys” at the Langano Lounge in Southeast Portland, April 2011.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you all have had a chance to share a bill with so far?

DarkMatter:  Nope, but we’ve played with some great bands that I’m a fan of now: The Primitive Idols, WaveSauce, The Planet Crashers, 42 Ford Prefect, Sharks From Mars.  Check those guys out.
The Gent:  Dr. Stahl.

DNA:  Man…Or Astro-Man?, Satan’s Pilgrims, Slayer, lol!  The cool thing is we all come from different musical backgrounds and interests.  I feel it gives us an original sound, not just your straight up surf-rock band.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Number Six:  Carl Sagan.

DarkMatter:  A tame squirrel that, once he starts playing the bongos, is no longer tame.  You said my dreams right?

The Gent:  The Replacements and Minor Threat.  I feel stuck in the middle in a lot of my dreams.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?

DarkMatter:  Not really, I don’t really remember a lot of our shows.

DNA:  Nothing too crazy.  No one has fallen off the stage yet…  It was funny playing a few shows with some metal-head bands!

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band like flyers, posters, shirt designs, covers or other artwork?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your artwork?  Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing and if so, who is that and how did you get hooked up with them originally?

DarkMatter:  We didn’t until The (New) Number 6 showed up.  Now we still don’t, but he does.  Wait, I bought a fog machine and that thing rules.  So, I helped I guess.

DNA:  We all try to help with that, but Number Six is definitely the man that makes it happen.

Number Six:  I’ve done graphic design for some previous projects, both my own and others, so I’ve always had fun at the wheel of the design-aspect of things.  Each project has a vibe, and I don’t feel they always need to be uber-profound.  The show fliers and cover art always just seem to morph into what they’re supposed to be, so really there’s always going to be hidden meanings in it all, whether it was intended at the design level or not.  With regard to live shows, my last project, The Pink Snowflakes, had a highly-visual live show, lotsa lights, strobes, bubbles, art noise; real seizure-style stuff.  With The Protons, we do some backdrop and LED lighting here-and-there, probably a lot more tasteful than what I’ve done before.

With all of the various mediums of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re purchasing and or listening to music?  If so, can you talk a little bit about what you preference is and why?

DarkMatter:  Vinyl.  I only want vinyl.  I started collecting in high school and now I can’t stop.

The Gent:  We chose the 7" record because records seem to endure better than some other formats.  Personally, I probably pay more attention to a vinyl record when I play one than I do to, say, a shuffled playlist on the computer.  And that attention extends to the cover art, songs titles, band members, etcetera.  I think we released Out of Phase on compact disc because it’s a more inexpensive medium and we have limited funds at the moment.  As many others likely do, I tend to discard compact discs after the music has been ripped to my computer.

DNA:  I prefer vinyl because it’s really a piece of artwork and I enjoy the sound of it more than digital copies.

Do you have a music collection at all, and if so can you tell us a bit about it?

Number Six:  I was unemployed for a year-and-a-half stretch when I first moved to Portland, and sold off my entire collection of physical music, except for the discs that were either 1) made by a friend, or 2) I thought had exceptional art/design work.  Since then, the majority of my purchases have been downloads, admittedly.  I really am into a lot of instrumental music and psych, krautrock, garage, delta blues, etcetera.  Honestly, though, if it’s something that hits me in the right way, I’ll listen to it, regardless of genre.

DarkMatter:  I’m all over the map.  I have anything from turn-of-the-century ragtime to hardcore.  I don’t love all types of music, but I love all types of bands. 

The Gent:  It's more of an accumulation than a collection, but yeah.  A lot of punk and hardcore 7" and LP's from the 80's and 90's, a bunch of classic rock stuff, and recent releases from people like Sharon Van Etten and Tom Waits.  There’re boxes of compact discs stowed away somewhere, mostly local bands and stuff on smaller independent labels that can't be acquired quite as easily as some more popular music.  And then days upon days upon days of digital files on the computer, everything from demos by obscure bands to the most obvious artist you might think of.  It's so varied that I’ll stop myself from going into it all the different types of music.

DNA:  Mine is pretty diverse.  Pretty much anything other than contemporary country!

I grew up around a pretty massive collection of old school psych, vintage garage rock and tons of classic blues music and I was encouraged to listen to just about anything that floated my boat from a pretty young age.  There’s something magical about sticking an album on, kicking back with a set of headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover artwork and just getting lost in the whole experience and it’s kind of grown into an obsession for me.  There’s something about having a physical object to hold and experience along with the music that made for a much more complete listening experience for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

The Gent:  Yes, indeed.

DarkMatter:  I’ve had similar experiences while listening to my collection. 

Number Six:  If you can clone yourself into about 50,000 more iterations, and let them know about us, I’d be stoked to direct you to where you can find our music available for purchase.

As much as I love my music collection digital music has changed everything, whether for the better or worse.  I personally think it’s mostly been for the better, together with the internet it’s exposed people to the literal world of music that’s out there right now and eliminated a lot of the problems that arose from making music in isolated or remote locations.  Nothing is ever black and white though, and while people are being exposed to the music they’re not necessarily paying for it all the time.  Illegal downloading is running rampant and music is becoming this disposable experience to be used and forgotten.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Number Six:  I actually work in digital music distribution for my day-job, so I could probably go on about this topic for days.  However, it’s the weekend for me right now.

DarkMatter:  I’m all for digital distribution.  Instant access to your new favorite band can be a powerful thing.  I’m personally also for free distribution of music.  I found for myself, that if I can stream something and listen to the whole album, I’m more likely to buy it.  You can stream all of our songs at

The Gent:  I've never come to a definitive answer on this matter.  You’ll have to interview us again at a later date and ask me then!

I try to keep up with as much music as I can but there’s just not enough time in the day to even listen to one percent of the amazing stuff that’s out there right now.  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of that I should be listening to?  What about nationally and internationally?

Number Six:  I hear Nickelback may be on tour again later this year…

The Gent:  I always point everyone to my bothers' band in New York.  They're called the Big Con.  They have an excellent full-length called Time Is at My Throat.  Beyond that, like you said, there's so much good stuff out there, one hardly needs me to help them find any of it!

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about The Protons, I know that it took some time to finish as it took me quite some time to get this written up!  It was awesome to learn so much about the band and I hope you all had at least a little bit of fun looking back on everything that you’ve managed to accomplish as a band over the past few years.  Before we call it a day and sign off, is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or my readers about?

The Gent:  I think that covers it for me.


(2013)  The Protons – The Explanatory Gap – digital, 7” – Self-Released (Limited to ? copies on Translucent Red Vinyl)
(2014)  The Protons – Out Of Phase – digital, CD – Self-Released/Deep Eddy Records

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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