Sunday, September 21, 2014

La Hell Gang interview with Francisco “KB” Cabala


I’ve been tipped off to more music by Permanent Records than I can even begin to imagine, but it’s more than just the bands themselves.  They’ve introduced me to entire countries and movements of music, to stuff like Chilean psych, and for that I will be forever indebted to them.  There’s been so many bands that have just melted by face from over there it’s crazy, but there’s a few that stand above the rest and I’ve got a series of interviews coming up exploring the region and those bands that have piqued my interest the most.  I had a very short list of people I wanted to get in touch with and talk to in the beginning, and La Hell Gang was at the top of that list!  Founding member, guitarist and lead singer Francisco “KB” Cabala graciously offered to take time out of his insane schedule to talk all things La Hell Gang with all us lucky folks here at It’s Psychedelic Baby.  A warm, melting conglomeration of shoegaze and heavy, head drone psych, La Hell Gang have just loosed another platter of dystopian melancholy psychedelia on the world in the form of the Thru Me Again 12” for Mexican Summer.  Throttling back from 2010’s Just What Is Real for BYM Records, La Hell Gang have settled into a sound that’s quite reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when they were at the top of their game, mellow, yet harsh, and meticulously and intricately constructed; and I mean that’s as a compliment of the highest degree!  Raucous and spacious guitars paint a luscious landscape in which the bass and drums fill in the colors and bring the listener along for a demented Technicolor trip across the worlds of sound.  Enter a universe devoid of self-consciousness or doubt.  Enter the cosmos of La Hell Gang.  Trust me; it’s much more pleasant than it sounds!  Enjoy your stay.  You can thank me when you get back…
Listen while you read:  http://lahellgang.bandcamp.com/


What’s the lineup for La Hell Gang at this point?  Is this the original lineup or have you all made any changes to the lineup since you started as a band?

The line up has been the same since the beginning, Francisco “KB” Cabala - Guitar and Vocals, Ignacio “Nes” Rodriguez - Drums, and Rodrigo “Sarwin” Sarmiento - Bass.

Are any of you in any other bands or do you have any active side projects going on?  Have you released any material with anyone in the past?  If so, can you tell us a bit about it?

I have another project called Chicos de Nazca, we’ve got four albums, released by BYM Records and Hozac Records in Chicago.  My first band called Cindy Sisters I had with my friends from 2005 to 2008 had one single released by Hozac Records too. 

How old are you and where are your originally from?

We’re from Chile.  I’m twenty four, Nes is twenty eight, and Sarwin’s twenty four.

What was the music scene like where you grew up?  Were you very involved in the music scene?  Do you attend a lot of shows or anything?  Do you feel like the local scene there played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or in the way that you perform at this point?

When I started with Cindy Sisters around 2006, we played in the Chilean scene with amazing bands like The Ganjas and then bands like Watch Out!, Follakzoid or Holydrug Couple strated to appear.

What about your home?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or maybe just extremely interested or involved in music?

My big brother’s a guitarist; actually he’s playing bass in Chicos de Nazca.  My father was a bassist in the 60’s as well, I grew up playing guitar, and Nes’ father’s a drummer.

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

Was when I was sixteen years old in 2006, with my friend Vicente Schiesewitz.  Together we formed Cindy Sisters, he now has his own project called The Psychedelic Schafferson Jetplane; really good music.

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

I wrote my first song in 2006 which was released by Hozac Records.  The song’s called “She Is Burning Inside”.  I just felt that was my way, something I had to do.  Now I’m always thinking of melodies and songs.

When did you get your first instrument?  What was it?

I don’t remember when I got my first guitar, but I was a kid.

How did you all originally meet?  When would that have been?

I met Sarwin in school and Nes around 2008.  We met and recorded “Just What Is Real”, with songs that were written after Cindy Sisters broke up, some jams, and then two songs written by Sarwin on bass.  We recorded this album in 2009.

When and what led to the formation of La Hell Gang?

In 2009, after Cindy Sisters broke up, there was no time to loose.  So, I met up with the guys and we recorded.

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

We like to jam a lot.  The songs are extremely free, anything could happen when we’re playing live.


Your name seriously just sounds bad ass, like Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet in Pulp Fiction bad ass or something.  What does La Hell Gang mean or refer to in the context of the band name?  Who came up with it and how did you go guys go about choosing it?  Were there any close seconds or runners-up you can think of?

We were a kind of Hell Angels when we were boys, but in the good way, ha-ha, walking around the city free with our psychotropics, boots and leather jackets.

Where’s La Hell Gang located at?

I’m living in Berlin now and the guys are in Chile.  I want to move to Australia, so I’m kind of moving around and around and don’t have a home now.

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

We have a home in Santiago where the BYM Records studio is.  I was living there with Sarwin and Nes, the drummer of Holydrug couple, and some other artists, almost all the bands on the label play there.  We all know each other.

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

In the past we’ve been very involved, playing all the time.  Now we’re planning tours, and can travel around the world.


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

Nes is the head of BYM Records.  He recorded almost all of the bands on the label in the BYM house, we do it as analog as we can and we always record on tape.

Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history, or evolution of La Hell Gang in your opinion?  Do you feel like you all could be doing what you’re doing and sound like you do regardless of your location or surroundings?

Yeah, I’ve been influenced by a band here called The Ganjas.  My friend Samuel Maquieira is the guitarist and I listened to their album a lot when I was starting…  Also, when I was in the school we jammed a lot with some Chilean friends, an experimental jam band called La Bandas.

Your sound is fuzzy as hell, but there’s a lot of killer stuff that I can hear kicking around in there; traces of blues, garage and twisted psychedelia.  I’m curious to hear who you all would cite as your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

I grew up listening to Jimi Hendirx.  Later, I discovered The Stooges, MC5, and then Spacemen 3 and The Jesus and Mary Chain.  That was my school.

How would you describe La Hell Gang in your own words to our readers who might not have heard you all before?

La Hell Gang is a psychedelic trio.  We respect the drone in the music, the psychedelia, and freedom of mind when we’re playing.

What’s the songwriting process like for La Hell Gang?  Do you all get together for practice and just kind of kick ideas back and forth, kind of distilling a song from the process and then polishing it from there?  Or, is there someone who usually comes in to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out with the rest of the band?

On our albums, I wrote almost all the songs, but Sarwin wrote a couple.  Then we started to play together and Nes gave the motor to the gang and there’s a lot of songs that we wrote together just jamming.

What about recording?  I think that most musicians can appreciate all the time, work and effort that goes into making an album when they’re holding the finished product in their hands finally.  But getting to that point, getting stuff recorded, and sounding the way that you want it to, especially as a band, can be extremely difficult and trying on a band to say the least.  What’s it like recording for La Hell Gang?

I don’t think it’s too difficult getting the final album when you are telling the truth.  I don’t like it when music is too controlled and planned.  I like spontaneity in the music.  You can see a real musician when they can record their music in one take, you know?

Do you all like to take a DIY approach to recording where you all handle most of the technical aspects of things yourselves so you can control the sound more precisely and don’t have to work with or compromise with someone else?  Or, do you all like to head into the studio and let someone else handle that side of things so you all can concentrate on getting the best performances possible out of yourselves?

I like record our own stuff.  When you record on tape there’s no too much work to do, you don’t need to mix a lot, the music sounds alive and it’s easy to take the control.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into getting songs to sound just so-so, with every part of them meticulously worked out ahead of time before you start?  Or, is it more of a case where you get a good skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like in your head while allowing for some change and evolution during the recording process when you feel it’s necessary?

Almost always, we just do one or two takes of a song playing together and then the guitars come in and record overdubs, but those are the first or second take too.  Almost everything is in the first take, the voice too, there are just some guitars on the overdubs, but there’s not too much to think about.  It’s clear in the mind, just flow.

Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic play any role in the songwriting, recording or performance angles of La Hell Gang?  I know there are a lot of people who really like to tap into the altered mind states that can be produced by imbibing substances and I’m always curious what they utilize and how it affects their music.

Of course marijuana always helps to make music and keep you flowing the right way, and hallucinogens, of course.  In South America you can go to the jungle and take ayahuasca, or go to the desert and take San Pedro cactus, to clear your mind, the natural way.


You all released your debut album Just What Is Real for BYM Records back in 2010, which is a killer little slab of psychedelia.  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of that early material?  Was it a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?  When and where was it recorded at?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

We recorded the album in a wooden house in the country, on an 8-track reel-to-reel of Nes’, in just two days.  It was just us, nobody else as there.  It was really powerful…   We just one take, it was really funny and real, ha-ha. I recorded with a vintage Vox Phantom guitar and a vintage fuzz pedal from the 60’s, and an old console.  It was the first vinyl BYM Records released, recorded in 2009 and pressed in 2010.


You are just getting ready to follow up Just What Is Real with your sophomore album, Thru Me Again the end of this month (July 2014) this time for Mexican Summer Records.  Was the recorded of the material for Thru Me Again very similar to your work on the first album?  Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for Thru Me Again?  Where was that recorded?  Who recorded it and when was that?  What kind of equipment was used this time around?

We took more time to record this album.  It was recorded by Nes in the BYM House.  We played one take and then we did some overdubs.  Songs like “The Beginning Remains The End” and “So High”, were jams.  We’ll take a part of the jam and make a song.  “Last Hit” and “What You Want You Got It”, were jams too, from beginning to end.  I wrote the rest of the songs.  It was recorded on 8-track reel-to-reel.


Does La Hell Gang have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a song on a compilation or a demo that I’m not aware of?


We recorded an EP in 2010, which will be released by BYM soon, it’s called “There Is The Place”.  Also, we have a cassette called It’s Live In My Soul, released by Yellowmoon, which is a lot of songs we played live around 2010.


With the release of Thru Me Again on July 22nd (2014) do you all have any other releases in the works or on the horizon at this point at all?

Yeah, we’re going to put out some lost songs, that never been released, and we’ll probably record another album during the Chilean summer.  Also, Chicos de Nazca recorded our new album, with me, Nes on drums, and my brother on bass, which is going to be released at the end of this year.

Are there any major plans or goals that you’re looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or in 2015?

We’ve got a US tour from October 7th to November 15th; New York to California in a van.  I’ll send you the poster soon.

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 La Hell Gang?

We’re really friends, so everything is right!  I could live on tour.  Every gig is different as we jam all the time.  We love to play all the time.


Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent?  Stuff like shirt designs, posters, fliers, cover and that kind of thing?  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 sort of thing?  If so, who are they?

We’re trying to transmit, “Keep the music real”.  I like anyone who’s making real shit.  Our art is simple, to let the music flow, always on the good side of the energy.  And it’s trying to explain what it is to be an outsider.  The last art was made by a friend called Zsueño, he did a good analog feeling job, and I’m happy with the art and the way it represents the psychedelic aspects of our music.


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

If stuff is released with good intentions it’s all right.  I like to sell albums playing live, to people who saw the band.  Here in Berlin I’ve been playing in the street selling the vinyl and CDs of Thru Me Again, with my friend Vicente from Cindy Sisters and Psychedelic Schafferson Jetplane, anyway to try to get people to meet us.

I grew up around a collection of music and my dad would always take me out and pick up random stuff that I thought looked or sounded cool.  I developed a deep appreciation for physically released music from a pretty young age.  I would kick back with a set of headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the cover artwork and just let the whole thing carry me off on this trip.  It’s something that I’ve grown a bit addicted to in my growing age actually.  Just having something physical to hold in my hands always made for a much more complete listening experience for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?  If so, can you talk a little bit about that?

Do you mean on vinyl?  I collect all my music on vinyl.  I like to feel all the frequencies, I love when I just listen to the recordings from the tape.  The harmonics are alive, the bass is so deep.  Anyway, these days it’s so easy to make an album, if you release it on vinyl, you actually feel that the process is complete.

Like it or not, digital music is here and it’s here in a big way.  Digital music is just the tip of the iceberg though, in my opinion.  When you team it with the internet, that’s when you have something truly revolutionary on your hands.  Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and it’s allowed for unparalleled levels of communication betweens bands and their fan bases all over the globe effectively erasing geographic boundaries almost overnight.  On the other hand, while people may be exposed to more music than ever they’re not necessarily interested in paying for it and for many people music is becoming this sort of disposable experience to be used and then discarded and forgotten about when you’re done.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

There’s a lot of digital music around and it’s so easy to make digital music and distribute it, at the same time it’s out there with all the standard commercial music, so it’s difficult to find good new music, but people who know about what’s real don’t have this problem.  People are realizing this more and more.  In my case I collected all my music on vinyl, so I don’t follow the digital world much.

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

I recommend listen some albums from Chile:
Los Vidrios Quebrados – Fictions (1967)
Los Macs – Kaleidoscope Men (1967)
The Ganjas – Laydown (2006)
The Psychedelic Schafferson Jetplane (2010)


DISCOGRAPHY
(2010)  La Hell Gang – Just What Is Real – digital, 12” – BYM Records
(2014)  La Hell Gang – Thru Me Again – digital, 12” – Mexican Summer Records

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014

The Achtungs interview with Joni Ekman


If The Mummies and Nobunny had some sort of bastard dumpster baby that they left behind a diner where one of the Ramones happened to be shooting up in the alley, who found it and took it home in a doped out haze for Wayne Kramer and Sonic Smith to raise as their own, this would be it!  Blistered and raw tape hiss explodes in spasmodic fits of tightly woven pockets in the form of two minute long punk blasters.  Fashioned with a care and intensity that’s rare and almost unmatched, Finland’s own The Achtungs fit all the mumbling, screaming, fast melting speed and fuzz possible in there, but where the fuck they find time to cram all the insanely infectious and gnarly lead guitar is what I want to know!  This shit sounds like White Stripes-era Jack White completely lost his shit, got hooked on dope, became an alcoholic, bought a tape recorder, kicked the organist out of The Mummies and went Bad Brains on their asses!  With a hefty back catalog at this point, The Achtungs are still working to perfect their own sound, a delightfully garbled mess of distortion and tape fuzz, blending the best of the 60’s and the current no-fi movement, but their newest releases, the Full Of Hate LP for Going Underground especially, just bleeds real punk rock.  This isn’t that pansy shit your friends are listening to, this is the real deal stuff right here.  None of that bubblegum or wanna be hardcore screaming B.S. going on here, Joni Ekman and the rest of the boys mean fucking business.  Snatch yourself a beer out the fridge, kick back with a square and a fatty, and let The Achtungs light you up!  The world needs more music like this, but there’s only one Achtungs.  Oh, and by the way, did I mention they were psychedelic as fuck baby!?!

Who all’s in The Achtungs right now and what do you play?  Is this the original lineup or has there been any changes since you all formed?

Well, The Achtungs is now Jussi Numminen on drums, Teemu Ojala on bass and me, Joni Ekman, on guitar and vocals.  This isn’t the original lineup, though.  Jussi joined the band in March 2011 and Teemu got involved in August, 2012.  There've been quite a few lineup changes since I started the band in September of 2010.

Are any of you in any other active bands or do you have any side projects going on right now?  Have you ever released anything with anyone else in the past?  If so, can you tell us a bit about that?  I love playing musical connect the dots, but I have to admit that nothing beats cheating and getting the answers right from the source!

Yes, Jussi and I are currently playing in a band called Lähtevät Kaukojunat.  We just put out a LP.  We also have an EP out, but it's sold out I guess.  Teemu’s making music under the name Telepiste, but that name might change.  He’s also playing with me in Koiran näköinen nainen, soon to be Joni Ekman & Koira, and Johnny Ekman & U.R.O.  I made my first recordings with my friends as a band called Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. back in 2008 when we we're like fifteen/sixteen years old.  We put out two CD-r releases and played about five gigs.  Then, we broke up and the other guys formed Tohtori Koira.  I also have some side projects with my friends like The Transentiset, Smurfit, T.P. Seller, The Cheese, and Cola Boys etcetera.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

I'm twenty two years old right now.  I'm originally from Somero, Finland; a really small town.

How would you describe the local music scene where you grew up?  Were you very involved in the local scene there?  Do you feel like it played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way that you perform today?

There was no musical scene in Somero, just some old farts who liked prog rock and some metalheads playing Metallica covers.  That "scene" made me play something else than heavy metal or jazz.  I really like the music by Rauli Badding Somerjoki though.

What about your home when you were growing up?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or just extremely interested/involved in music?

No musicians in my family, I don’t think anyone from my family is even interested in music that much.

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

I used to listen to my dad's old tapes like Modern Talking, Kikka, AC/DC and Eppu Normaali.  That's the only music I listened to back then.  Then, my sister got into Spice Girls and E-Type, and since we shared room, I had to listen to all that.  My own first CD was Bomfunk MC's In Stereo, but I can’t tell if I really liked that.  I was kinda embarrassed to like music when I was younger.  I don’t know why.  Maybe, listening to music was too cool for me.

If you were to pick a moment that seemed to change everything for you, opened your eyes up to the infinite possibilities that music presents and changed the way you saw things, what would it be?

I guess hearing the Ramones for the first time made me realize something new.  The first vinyl record I bought was Kakkahätä-77’s second EP WTC räjähtää, and it blew my mind.  They sounded so bad that it was the best thing ever.  I was so excited about that record I used to skip classes in school just to go home and listen to it.

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

I never really chose to do that, it just came naturally, or something like that.

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

My first instrument was a guitar.  My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas in 2005, and I said that I wanted an electric guitar.  It was actually kind of a joke, but then she got it for me for Christmas.  I remember I felt bad for her, ‘cause I didn’t really want a guitar that bad.

How did the members of The Achtungs meet and when would that have been?

Jussi and I knew each other ‘cause we had a band together before Achtungs called Pill Poppers.  We didn't release anything, but there are some recordings somewhere.  Our bass player Teemu and I met in the Vastavirta club in Tampere, Finland somewhere around the summer '12, I guess.  He was supposed to play in Lähtevät Kaukojunat but that didn’t happen, so I asked him to come and try to play some bass for The Achtungs since our drummer Juha had some difficulties making it to rehearsal with me and Jussi, who was playing the bass back then.

When and what led to the formation of The Achtungs?

In the summer of 2010, I was really bored with the band I was in, Pill Poppers, and I wanted a band that sounded like The Reatards.  So, I formed one.

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

No.

I know that roughly translated The Achtungs means, ‘The Dangers”.  What does the name mean or refer to?  Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it?

The name doesn’t really mean anything.  My friend Santeri came up with it.  It sounds good, though.  Kinda.

Where’s the band located now?

The band is located in Tampere, Finland.

How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at now?

There's some good stuff, but most of the music here is pretty bad.  But that's just my opinion.

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

I don't know how involved in the scene we are, we play if someone asks us to and that's it.


Are you involved in recording or releasing any music at all?  If so, can you talk about that briefly here?

Well, my friend Juho and I have this tape/record label called Fuck CD's.  We've released a bunch of tapes and one 7-inch, too.  More stuff’s on the way!  I usually record all of my own music but I don't really record anybody else's bands ‘cause I get too nervous about screwing things up and making them sound bad.

Has the local scene played a large or integral role in the sound, history, formation or evolution of The Achtungs?  Or, do you feel like you all could be doing what you’re doing and sounding like you do regardless of your location and surroundings?

Sometimes, when I think about the "scene" here, I just wanna go and make noise.  The scene frustrates me.  That's something!

While we’re talking so much about the history and general makeup of the band I’m really interested to hear who you would cite as some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Well, The Reatards were a big influence when I started the band.   Currently, I’m into Big Star and 60's/70's rock music, but I don't think that will have any effect on The Achtungs.  Maybe some more rock'n'roll clichés will occur.  I don't think other members of the band really share any of the same influences as me.  Teemu really likes the Bad Times LP and so do I.  Jussi just likes to bang drums and play gigs.

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

Noisy punk.

What’s the songwriting process with The Achtungs like?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out with the rest of you, or do you all get together for practice and just kind of kick ideas back and forth until you’ve distilled and polished something from the exchange that you’re all happy with?

It has always been the same since we started, I bring some new song(s) to rehearsal and then we just practice it.

What about recording?  I think that most musicians can obviously appreciate the end result of all the time and effort that goes into making an album when you’re holding that finished product in your hands.  Getting to that point though, getting everything recorded and sounding the way that you want it to, especially as a band, can be extremely difficult.  What’s it lie recording for The Achtungs?

I've discovered that by playing all the instruments by myself, except bass, which Teemu records later on, makes the recordings sound more the way I want them to sound.  I have an idea and I’m not satisfied if that doesn’t happen.  For example, I think the first LP sounds horrible and it was recorded with Jussi on drums.  He hits everything really hard, so the drums sound really blown out here and there on the record.  I also used only one mic back then.  Not to mention, I couldn't really record that good back then.  I've learned how to do that now, though.

Do you all like to head into the studio and let someone else handle the technical aspects of recording so you can just concentrate on getting the best performances possible out of yourselves, or do you all take a more DIY approach where you handle the technical aspects of things yourselves so you don’t have to compromise on the sound or work with anyone else to achieve it?

I've been recording everything The Achtungs have released on my tape 4-track recently.  We've had some sessions with other people recording us, but they never really worked out the way I wanted to.  I don't want to waste anyone else’s time but mine.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out every little aspect of a song before you all head into to record it?  Or, do you all get a good skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like while allowing for plenty of room for change and evolution during the recording process?

We used to be more of a "band", but now that I’ve learned to play drums better, I’ve been recording more stuff by myself.  That single we’ve got out on Total Punk for example, was my first experiment playing drums on an Achtungs record, and I think it sounded really good.  It was the sound I’ve been looking for all of these years.


Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performances processes for The Achtungs?  People have been harnessing the effects of these substances to produce altered mind states in hopes of channeling it into their art almost since recorded history began and I’m always curious about its usage and application to the artistic process…

Not really.  I don't care much for drugs.

2011 was an extremely busy year for you all to say the least!  The first thing I know of that you all ever released as the self-titled The Achtungs cassette from Fuck CD’s.  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for that first release?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?  When and where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?  I’m pretty sure that’s out of print and pretty well unavailable at this point, but how many copies was that limited to?

Was it really that busy?  That tape was recorded with the first lineup of The Achtungs.  We had drums and two guitars; Axel, Arttu, and I.  It was in January, 2011.  We recorded nine songs and put six of them on the tape.  The recording was pretty frustrating ‘cause I didn’t really know how to use my 4-track back then.  Our drummer Arttu helped me a lot during that, with setting the mics up and stuff, so thanks.  We setup two really crappy, cheap mics somewhere in the room and just played the songs.  I got twenty to twenty five copies of the tape to sell at our first gig, which was in Helsinki later that January.  We've released some repressings of that on Fuck CD's, but I have no idea how many copies we've made so far.  Somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty copies, I think.


You also released the Vol. 2 cassette for Fuck CD’s in 2011.  Was the recording of the material for Vol. 2 recorded during the same session(s) as the self-titled tape from earlier that year?  Or, was that material recorded specifically for that release?  If it was recorded for Vol. 2 can you tell us about the recording of that material?  Who recorded it and where was that at?  When was that?  What kind of equipment was used?  Either way, I know that Vol. 2 is out of print as well but I couldn’t dig up many details about it.  How many copies was Vol. 2 limited to?

Vol.2 is pretty much a compilation of demos and failed recording sessions, there's quite a few of those!  And I just decided that I wanna put out a tape of this material.  There're some good songs on there and the recording is really crappy throughout.  It was recorded by me once again, except for a few live tracks on it that were recorded by Jukka Nousiainen.  We’ve never done a repress of this tape on Fuck CD's, ‘cause I think it sucks.  We only made 80 copies of this.


After a short break in 2012 you all released the Vol. 3 cassette tape, again for Fuck CD’s.  Was the recording of the material for Vol. 3 very different than the two previous volumes?  When was that material recorded?  Who recorded it and where was that at?  What kind of equipment was used that time around?  Do you know how many copies Vol. 3 was limited to?

Yeah, Vol. 3 is definitely the best tape we've made so far.  It was recorded with the current lineup.  We we're just starting to play together and I think it really sounds good.  We played it live and recorded it straight to tape.  Teemu was really helpful while recording.  He brought some better mics for us to use and knew some recording tips.  The same old 4-track was used.  I think this was the last recording on that machine.  It broke soon after this.  We recorded this in November 2012 and the B-side, which is a live recording, was recorded in October 2012.  We've made quite a few of these, maybe somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty copies?  I honestly don't know these things very well.


2013 also saw the release of a self-titled 7” EP for Joteski Groteski and Rock ‘n’ Roll Bullshit which was later repressed here in the States by the ever amazing Going Underground Records.  What was the recording of the material for that EP like?  Was it much like your earlier recording sessions or do you feel like you all had learned a lot from the early cassette tape series?

That first 7” and our first LP are from the same sessions.  We we're recording that first LP and I felt like there were some songs that didn't fit in that well on the possible LP, but they would make a good 7”.  So, I just picked a few songs and set them aside for a possible 7” release and we got few of our friends to put it out in August 2013.  I can't really remember anything about the recording, other than it was just Jussi and I playing our songs on that tape.  It was recorded with a new 4-track which allowed you to use all four tracks simultaneously, so that was the biggest change, I guess.

You keep extremely busy, and never once to rest on your laurels you’ve already dropped a single and a full-length album this year (2014) as well!  The Full Of Hate 7” was released by Total Punk Records and features two brand-new tracks from you all, one of which was ironically “Full Of Hate” which is the title for your full-length released this year as well.  Were either “Full Of Hate” or “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” from the same sessions that produced the Full Of Hate LP later on that year?  I know that album’s limited, do you know how many copies it’s limited to?


It was completely different sessions.  The LP was recorded in February 2013 and the single was recorded in January 2014.  So, that's almost a year in between.  You can clearly hear the difference in the recordings.  The album’s limited to 400 copies 100 on green and the rest on black vinyl.


I mentioned it before, but you released your sophomore full-length album Full Of Hate for Going Underground Records.  Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for Full Of Hate?  Where and when was it recorded?  What kind of equipment was used?  Who recorded it?

I just had songs and we recorded them, basically.

Do The Achtungs have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a demo or a song on a compilation that I might not know about?

A few songs appear on some compilations.  The Flash Trash comp had two songs, “I've Had Enough” and “Hey Girl”.  They’re just me copying the first Reatards record, banging on a mattress and a notebook.  They sound like drums though!  Then, we have a song called "Mess MyHead" on a Bat Shit compilation that’s on Bandcamp somewhere, only digital!  And then we have a song on this new compilation by Fuck CD's called Kesäpano.  We're doing a Beatles cover there, “I Saw Her Standing There”.


You’ve already dropped a single and your debut 12” this year but with you all being so productive it does beg the question, are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon from The Achtungs at this point?

We have a three song 7” and a new 12” recorded.  I think the 7” is coming later this year, and the second LP is coming after that, I guess.

With the completely insane shipping rates all over the planet I try and give our readers options when it comes to picking stuff up.  Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff?

I think the best place to buy our records for US people is straight from the label.

What about nationally and internationally?  There’s nothing worse than being able to afford an album, but not being able to cover the shipping!

I don't know what stores carry our stuff.  P.Trash and Ken Rock might have some copies of our records.

And where would the best place for our interested readers to keep up with the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases from The Achtungs be at?

Since we don't have a Facebook page, there’s really no place to look for upcoming gigs or releases.  I try to advertise them on message boards sometimes.

Are there any major plans or goals that The Achtungs are looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or 2015?

The only goal for now is to get those two upcoming records out and play gigs as much as possible.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring?  Do you enjoy being out on tour?  What’s life like on the road for The Achtungs?


We've never been on a tour so I can't really tell.


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

We have only one gig booked at the moment.  We're gonna try hit the US next year, but we’ll see about that.

Do you remember what the first song that The Achtungs ever played live was?  Where and when would that have been at?

The first song we played live was "Bored" in Lepakkomies, Helsinki.  Our first gig was in late January of 2011 at the Flash Trash Fest.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?

Pää Kii, Atom Mouth Gimlies, Räjäyttäjät, Kakkahätä-77, Moderni Elämä, Mental Problems, Mustat Kalsarit, and Räjäyttäjät etcetera.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Umm...  Motörhead.

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


I've broken some stuff and had to pay for it, but I don't know if that's fun?  I once smashed my guitar to pieces just because Jussi was too drunk to play and I got really annoyed by that.  I shouldn't smash any guitars anymore.  That's dumb shit.  And another story, Jussi once hit himself accidentally gave himself a bloody nose with a drum stick.  Blood, sweat, and punk.



Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like, flyers, posters, shirt designs, covers and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your art?  Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing?

I don't think about what to wear at a gig, it makes me feel like a rock star and I don't want that.  I want to make the cover art of our records look like crappy 70's punk records.  Those are the best.

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

I buy and listen to vinyl, pretty much.  That's why I wanna put out my albums out on vinyl.  They look better.

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

Yeah, I have records.  I've been collecting them since I was sixteen years old.  The first vinyl record I bought was Kakkahätä-77's second EP, WTC räjähtää which is still one of my favourites.

I grew up around this massive collection of my father’s music and he would take me out on the weekends and pick me up random stuff that I was interested in from the local shops.  I developed this system of picking up an album, kicking back with a set of headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover artwork and just letting the whole experience carry me off on this trip!  Having something to physically hold and experience along with the music has always made for a much more complete listening experience, at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Yes, I do, for the same reasons as you.  I like vinyl more than a CD.  Vinyl is just more than a CD and everybody knows that more is more.

Digital music is here in a big way, like it or not.  When you combine digital music with the internet though, that’s when things get really interesting.  Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fan bases.  Nothing is ever black and white though and while people may be exposed to more music than ever they’re not necessarily involved in paying for it and for a lot of people music is becoming this kind of disposable thing to be used and then discarded.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

I don't think I would ever have gotten as into punk music if there was no internet and mp3-files.  Our LP is for sale as mp3-files and I’m fine with it.  Most people wanna hear the record before buying it, just like me.  New vinyl also cost a lot nowadays, so I don't really wanna buy a crap record for twenty five Euros, I'd rather buy a good record.  Not to mention, I’m not making any money with my music.  So, I don't care if someone listens to my music for free on the internet.  I’m just glad somebody might get something out of it.

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

My favorite new band from Tampere is Jukka & Jytämimmit.

What about nationally and internationally?

I like the new Giorgio Murderer EP a lot.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me about the band, it was awesome learning so much about you all and I at least hope it was a little fun for you look back on everything that you’ve managed to accomplish as a band.  I swear I’m done with all of the questions, but before we call it a day I’d like to open the floor up to you all for a second.  Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?

I think we got everything covered here.  Punk is the best.


DISCOGRAPHY
                The Achtungs
(2011)  The Achtungs – The Achtungs – Cassette Tape – Fuck CD’s
(2011)  The Achtungs – Vol. 2 – Cassette Tape – Fuck CD’s
(2013)  The Achtungs – Vol. 3 – Cassette Tape – Fuck CD’s
(2013)  The Achtungs – The Achtungs EP – 7” – Joteski Groteski/Rock ‘n’ Roll Bullshit/Going Underground Records (Going Underground Records pressing is a repress)
(2014)  The Achtungs – Full Of Hate – 7” – Total Punk Records (Limited to ? copies)
(2014)  The Achtungs – Full Of Hate – 12” – Going Underground Records

Joni Ekman DISCOGRAPHY
(2008)  Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. – Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. – CD­r – Self-Released –
(2009)  Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. – Monoa naamaan – CD­r – Self-Released –
(2012)  Johnny Ekman & U.R.O. – Lost In Time – Cassette Tape –
(2012)  Transentiset – Rock kasvissyöntiä vastaan – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Johnny Ekman & U.R.O. – 2 – Cassette Tape – 
(2013)  The Transentiset – Kielloista huolimatta... – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen ­ Rock'n'roll – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Teendreams – Dead Body In The Sand – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Johnny Ekman U.R.O. ­ 3 – Cassette Tape – 
(2013)  Lähtevät Kaukojunat – Lähtevät Kaukojunat EP – 7" –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen ­ Nussimista auton takapenkillä – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – Koiran Näköinen Nainen EP – 7" –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – Viulumusiikkia – Cassette Tape
(2014)  Ralliauto ­ Ralliauto – Cassette Tape – 
(2014)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – #4 – Cassette Tape – 
(2014)  The Cheese – The Cheese EP – 7" – 
(2014)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – Kesämuistoja EP – 7"
(2014)  Lähtevät Kaukojunat – Lähtevät Kaukojunat – 12” –
(2014)  Kytänsoittajat/Transentiset – Split EP – 7" –
(2014)  Cola Boys – Cola Boys EP – 7" –

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy interview with James Woodard Jared Flores, Mario Trejo and Eric Sandoval

© Andrew Vertiz

When you say The Grasshopper Lies Heavy to people it means a lot of different things.  You’re talking about a band that’s been releasing material for the better part of a decade at this point, and material that really runs the gambit of genres I might add.  From the early programmed drum beginnings of GUN to the luscious soundscapes and space rock of this year’s All Sadness, Grinning Into Flow.  While there’s a thread that connects it all, it might only be visible to the keenest of eyes; nearly imperceptible to al but a select few.  Spanning eight releases and as many years, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy may have produced their greatest work yet.  The amalgamation of sounds found on the above mentioned All Sadness, Grinning Into Glow encapsulates nearly all of the aspects that have at one point or another defined The Grasshopper Lies Heavy’s sound, but has also taken the palette of sound to an entirely new level, not only elevating the sound but the listener along with it.  The building ebb and flow of All Sadness draws the listener in from minute one and doesn’t let loose until the album’s done.  Quiet reserved guitars that build and flutter before retreating back into their hiding places melt with the steady thud of the bass and throbbing heartbeat of the drums, sonic ephemera floating in the back like gossamer chains rattling in the wind, before building into a concrete wall of riff worshipping, amp destroying beauty in a cacophonous rage of sound.  All Sadness, Grinning Into Flow is the beautiful soundtrack to a film that was once in the mind’s of the artists responsible for creating the album, but will inevitably be playing on a loop in your mind ever after.  All Sadness might be their opus, but I’m not inclined to believe that.  This is a band that’s been around for so long they have gone round the bend and come back again, they’re past the breaking point and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.  I’m inclined to believe they’re just going to keep learning and getting better and better.  In fact, I shudder to even think what these guys are going to be up to five years from now.  I don’t know what it will sound like, I don’t know what you will call it, but I know it’ll be good, I can tell you that, ha-ha!  Enough of my inane pondering and pandering though, there’s a link below for you to sample the goods yourself, and make sure you do so as you won’t be disappointed!  Every current member of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy took part in this comprehensive interview to provide you with an all-you-need-to-know guide to the band and their releases in this writer’s humble opinion.  It should offer tidbits of new information to even the more veteran of fans, as well as effectively operate as a beginner’s guide to the kaleidoscope of sound that is The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, so with out further ado, bon appétit!  


I just recently got into you guys and I only know enough to get me in trouble at this point really.  What’s the current lineup in The Grasshopper Lies heavy at this point?  Is this the original lineup or have there been some changes since you all started?

James Woodard – Guitar, Synth, 
Noise Mario Trejo – Bass, Guitar, 
Noise Eric Sandoval – Drums 
Jared Flores – Guitar, Bass, Synth

James:  The lineup has changed quite a bit through the years, actually.  Eric is our sixth drummer, but he’s been around for a while now.  Mario started in 2007 or ‘08.  Jared is the newest guy; he started on our tour in December.

Are any of you in any other bands at this point or do you have any active side projects?  Have you release any music with anyone in the past?  If so, can you tell us a bit about that?

James:  I’m in another project called Blacknail, which is a scary impov modular synth/synth triggered drums/broken guitar trio.  It’s pretty fun.  Mario and I used to be in The Islands and the Sea, which has a posthumous cassette out on Crowquill Records.  Eric and I were also in a Mega Man cover band called MEGA MAN.  There’s some other stuff too, but I’ll stop now.

Jared:  Yeah, I'm in a couple others bands that are in the early stages.  The Beers, Selfies, Life Decay and another band with some of the same people from those other bands that doesn't have a name yet.

Mario:  As James said, I was in Islands and The Sea with him a couple of years back.  Every couple of years I’ll reunite with my old band mates in Reader.

Eric:  I’m in Ants.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

James:  I’m thirty.  I’ve lived a few places, but San Antonio is my home.

Jared:  I’m twenty four.  With the exception of the brief stint In Chicago I did a couple years back, I’ve lived in San Antonio my whole life.

Mario:  I’m thirty five, lived in Fat City, Texas my whole life.

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

James:  The local scene in San Antonio is pretty good.  There’s a lot of talent here.  People love to shit on it, but there’s some good stuff going on.  It has its ups and downs.  We kind of get overshadowed by Austin because of its proximity.  People usually get recognized after they move.

Jared:  Over the past year I’ve found that it’s a pretty cool scene.

Mario:  Being the elder in the band, I’ve seen the San Antonio and Austin scenes grow, change, and get boring.  Right now in San Antonio, there’s a lot going on, with lots of genres.  We do always get overlooked by our more vegan/liberal friends in Austin, but I’m used to it.  Austin can keep its’ weirdness, San Antonio will keep its’ tacos.

What about your home when you were growing up?  Were any of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or maybe just extremely interested/involved in music when you were a kid?

James:  My mom was pretty supportive growing up when it came to me picking up a guitar.  I think she just didn’t want me to blow up the school, so a guitar was a good alternative.

Jared:  There really wasn’t really any interest in other music for my parents than Kiss, old some R&B and oldies type stuff.

Mario:  My father plays guitar and taught me when I was teenager.  He taught me church music at first, and eventually I expanded to other music.  I played with my father for about ten years at church or for family functions.  The last time I played with him, we did Beatles covers for his sixtieth birthday in front of all our family.  It was killer.

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

James:  My mom always had music on growing up, and my older brothers exposed me to stuff too.  One of my older brothers would take acid and smoke weed, and make me listen to Pink Floyd and Miami bass music.

Jared:  I’d have to say it was the mix of constantly blaring of Al Green and Kiss around the house; didn’t care much for the latter, other than the distorted guitars.

Mario:  My parents used to play classical music to me when I was a child on a record player.  Eventually my parents showed me The Beatles, The Doors, and Chicago.  My cousins got me into the Miami Bass movement kinda how James’s brothers did.  Funny, how for me, it’s still about how much air can be pushed through multiple speakers

If you were to pick a moment that seemed to open your eyes up to the infinite possibilities of music and changed everything for you, what would it be?

James:  Probably listening to Floyd when I was a kid and finally “getting it”.  “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” comes to mind.  Also, seeing Fu Manchu when I was eighteen was pretty important.  Amps so loud you felt them.  Won’t ever forget how that felt for the first time.

Jared:  It would more than likely be the moment I heard the songs “The Sound” and “Helpless Child” from the Swans album Soundtracks For The Blind.

Mario:  Watching Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii on VHS was a game changer for me, listening to Jimi Hendrix Live at the Monterey Pop Festival.  Just listening to a guitar destroying three full Marshall stacks and realizing it was the late 60’s blew my mind.  Seeing Sonic Youth in ‘97 and a majority of the set list was stuff from the 80’s was amazing.  The crazy Branca tunings messed with my head.

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

James:  I think it was just a natural progression from learning to play guitar. 

Mario:  The moment I was asked to start a band with one of my best friends.  Eventually it became part of me.

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

James:  An Epiphone Flying V.  Got it when I was fifteen.

Jared:  It was some off-brand Strat copy.

Mario:  Acoustic Yamaha guitar.

How did you all meet and when would that have been?

James:  I met Mario thought the music scene.  He was in some pretty prolific bands around town, most notably Reader and Jupiter Mission.  Met Eric through his old band.  We met Jared through Facebookspace.

Jared:  Yeah, I saw that these dudes needed a bass fill-in, so I just went for it and asked.

Mario:  I met James at shows, hung out with him at record stores.  We played shows together before we were in the same band.

When did The Grasshopper Lies Heavy form and what exactly led to that?

James:  I started the band in ‘05 or ’06; did the first few releases with a drum machine.  I was just writing songs in my room during my early years in college, before I really knew any other good musicians.

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

Eric:  Don’t suck.

James:  Ha-ha-ha-ha, yeah.

Let’s take two seconds to talk a little bit about the name.  I like it, but I get the sneaking suspicion that I’m missing out on something.  Like, either it’s a reference to something I’m not catching or some sort of inside thing.  What does the name mean or refer to?  Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it?  Can you recall any close seconds that you almost went with?

James:  The name is a reference to the Philip K. Dick book The Man in the High Castle.  Check it out!

Now, where is The Grasshopper Lies Heavy located at this point?

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy:  San Antonio, Texas.

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

James:  I book shows every once in a while, and host bands that come through occasionally, too.

Jared:  Didn’t use to, but now I go to a couple shows here and there.

Mario:  I have been going to shows on and off since I was seventeen in the late 90’s.  I’m not as involved now, but for a while there I was at a show every night.

Are you involved in recording or releasing any music other than your own?  If so, can you tell us about that briefly here?

Jared:  While in Chicago I was part of a co-op type of label and we released some pretty cool drone/psych/dream pop stuff, but the defacto “leader” and I had a falling out when he wouldn’t send me some stuff that I had mistakenly shipped there after my move back to Texas.

In your opinion, has the local scene played an integral role in the formation, sound, history or evolution of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?  Or, do you feel like you could be doing what you’re doing and loud like you do regardless of where you were at or what you were surrounded by and stuff?

James:  Regardless of geographical location, I’d be doing what I am doing.  Now, is the psychosphere of South Texas influential on the music we make?  Maybe.  Probably.  But I don’t think it has to do directly with local music itself.  It’s great to have a local scene to cultivate, with killer local bands and venues.  But it doesn’t reflect on our songwriting process.

Mario:  I would be doing this regardless of where I was.  I think being in San Antonio makes you humble.  If you can tough it out for five years in San Antonio, you can make it anywhere.

Okay, so whenever I do these interviews I inevitably have to describe how a band sounds to our readers who may never have heard them before, and sometime more so than others, it’s really hard to do it right.  It’s quickly becoming this kind of neurosis for me, seriously.  Sometimes it keeps me up late at night, wondering if I’ve mucked something up and put too many of my own thoughts and perceptions into the music.  Rather than giving me an ulcer, how would you describe The Grasshopper Lies Heavy’s sound to our readers who may never have heard you all before in your own words?

James:  Yeah, this is hard for me too.  The band kind of has two sides to it.  The first side is a heavy, chunky, mosh pit inducing, sludgy, doomy, metal thing.  And the second side is a more heavy, psychedelic, synthy, soundtracky thing.

Speaking of describing sounds, you all have any extraordinarily interesting combination of influences that seems to be rather eclectic and all encompassing in a lot of ways.  I’m really curious, who are some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the bands as a whole rather than just individually?

James:  A lot of horror and sci-fi synth soundtracks, John Carpenter, Vangelis, Goblin, Morricone, stuff like that.  Also the guitarist Steven R. Smith and the kraut band Popol Vuh is pretty important; Floyd too.

Jared:  I agree with James on the importance of Popol Vuh; been really obsessed with Steven R. Smith again lately, too.  I don’t think that’ll ever be a bad thing.

Mario:  Floyd, Sabbath, Zombi, Goblin, yeah I think we’re all on the same page here.  Ha-ha.

Eric:  Nobuo Uematsu, amongst many other video game composers.

What’s the songwriting process like for The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out and compose with the rest of you all, or do you all get together and just kind of kick ideas back and forth and jam until you distill and polish something that you want to work on further from the exchange between members?

James:  I usually bring riffs to practice and we play with ‘em and turn ‘em into songs. 


What about recording?  It think that most musicians at least, can appreciate all the time and work that goes into recording an album when they’re holding that finished product in their hands.  But actually getting to that point getting everything recorded and sounding right, and especially doing that as a band, can be extremely difficult to say the least.  What’s it like recording for The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?

James:  Yeah, recording is a challenging process for us.  Not so much in the tracking, but in the mixing department.  I was very particular on the new album especially.  We finished principal tracking in two or three days, mixing took much longer.


Mario:  I used to loathe recording, but after this last record I’ve started enjoying it a lot more.

Do you all spend a lot of time working out the structures of songs before you lay them down and record them?  Or, is it more of a case where you get a good skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like and then allow it some room to change and evolved where necessary during the recording process?

James:  We pretty much know exactly what we want to do when we hit the studio, except guitar solos and stuff like that.

Do you all utilize any psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs in the songwriting, recording or performance aspects of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?  A lot of people like to use the altered states that drugs create to make their art in a different or slightly skewed way and I’m always curious about it.

James:  I always perform sober.  I like to keep my wits about me.  Some of the dudes toke in their free time though.  No names.  We’re grownups.

Jared:  I’m of the mind that people tend to make some of the best music when they’re sober.  Then again, I’m always sober.

Mario:  I don’t drink at our shows ‘til after we play, and even at that I’m tired and I just want water and tacos.  I also tend to play really sloppy when drunk.

In 2006 you all self-released the self-titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy CD limited to only 1,000 copies.  Can you talk a little bit about the recording of the material for that first release?  Was it a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?  When and where was that recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

James:  Oh gosh, I never even think about this record anymore.  Someone in Conway, Arizona requested one of the songs on this record on our last tour, and that was kinda crazy to me, because I can’t even tell you how that song goes!  The first EP was basically songs I wrote messing around with a laptop.  I didn’t really know many other people, so it was just me and a bass player, and the laptop did the drums.

You all followed up the Self-Titled CD with the completely bonkers GUN EP on the Forgotten Empire records label which has an interesting story to it, at least in my opinion.  The CD has like fifty-four tracks on it and the six songs on it are all placed in between these beeps and weird sounds and stuff, all of which are named after parts of a revolver handgun which is all laid out in the artwork for the digipak.  Can you tell us a little bit about how GUN came to be?  What was the initial idea behind the album?  Was the recording of the material for GUN very different than your earlier Self-Titled release?  Who recorded that material and where was that at?  When would that have been?  What kind of equipment was used?

James:  GUN was more of the guitar, bass, laptop duo era, so the songwriting and recording were very similar.  Yeah, the beeps thing.  I don’t know what I was thinking with that, other than CDs being boring.  We recorded this one, along with the self-titled and Soft Noise albums, at a little studio called Electro with our friend Justin Morris.  Morris is an incredibly talented cat, and since running Electro, he’s relocated to Austin and founded Western Dynamo, a pro audio gear company which sells his beautiful compressor he designed from the ground up.  He also records in much nicer studios now.  We might record our next album with him, straight to 2” tape. 


In 2008 you released your third EP in three years, Soft Noise again for Forgotten Empire records.  Now I don’t know if I heard this correctly but from what I’ve heard all of that material was written and recorded in one day?  How did that all come about and what led to the release of that material, or had that kind of been the initial idea all along?  When was that material recorded?  Where was that at and when would that have been?  What kind of equipment was used that time around?

James:  I think it was in ‘06 or ‘07.  I bought a Hammond Organ from the Salvation Army and decided to bring it to Electro to experiment with.  Morris and I miced it up a few ways and experimented with it for a few hours.  After recording, we boiled it down to a fifteen minute edit.  It was a fun day.  The label at the time wanted to put it out, so it happened.  It’s super out of print, along with the other Forgotten Empire era stuff.  I’m not even sure if I have a physical copy anymore.

2013 saw the birth of two new tracks, “Sucker” and “Dead Songs for Dead Bands” which were released on the In Love split single with God Townes on the Texas Is Funny label and limited to only 300 copies.  Were “Sucker” or “Dead Songs for Dead Bands” written or recorded specifically for this single or had they been around for a while looking for a place to call home?  If they were recorded for the single, can you tell us about the recording of them?  You probably know the drill by now, ha-ha, but who, what, where, when and how? 

James:  We had “Sucker” already written, and “Dead Songs for Dead Bands” was a heavily modified version of an Islands and the Sea song; one of James and Mario previous bands.  They came together pretty quick.  We recorded these songs, along with another song, over a single day during Christmas vacation.  We recorded the songs with longtime friend Bob Catlin, who has been around the world with bands like Pigface and Psychic TV.  He also recorded the 2011 album, Every Man For Himself and God Against All and our new album, All Sadness, Grinning into Flow


You recently released the All Sadness, Grinning Into Flow 12” for Learning Curve Records.  Was the recording of the material for All Sadness very different than the sessions for your earlier material?  Can you tell me a little bit about the recording of that material?  Where was it recorded and who recorded it?  When would that have been?  What kind of equipment was used?  Is the LP limited at all?  If so, do you know how many copies it’s limited to?

James:  Principal tracking was finished really fast; Eric finished the drums on the first day, then Mario finished bass on the next day.  We also had an arrangement for strings and horns recorded by a pal, Marcus Rubio, for us at Cal Arts, so we had to mix those tracks in as well.  Then the overdubbing, mostly dual guitars and synths.  As previously mentioned, the mixing took the longest.  I was pretty particular about it.  We recorded it at our friend Bob Catlin’s house, who recorded, engineered, and mixed it.  The LP is limited to 300 copies, 100 in each color.  Some of the color variations are really close to selling out.


Does The Grasshopper Lies Heavy have any music we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a song on a compilation, single or a demo that I might not know about?


James:  We did a split with Hawks from Atlanta called Fluffer, and we had an album in 2011 called Every Man for Himself and God Against All, which was out of print for a few years until Crowquill Records wanted to reissue it on vinyl.  The reissue just came out, and it’s gorgeous.


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

James:  At shows, or directly through our record labels’ websites.

With the completely insane international shipping rates that just seem to keep going up and up, I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up imports as I can.  Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to score your stuff?

James:  I think our label Learning Curve has Euro distro.  Poke around!

And where would the best place for our interested readers to keep up with the latest news from The Grasshopper Lies Heavy like upcoming shows and album releases at?

James:  Facebooktwitterinstagram is a great place!

Are there any major plans or goals that you’re looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or 2015?

James:  We’ve been on the road a bunch this year. This fall I want to write a new album and record it live to tape. That’d kick ass.
Jared:  Really looking forward to recording with these dudes.

Mario:  I’m stoked on recording again. Gonna be great with all four of us there.


Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring and stuff?  Do you enjoy being out on the road?  What’s life like on tour for The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?

James:  We’ve spent about a month on the road this year; two weeks over Christmas and New Years, and two and a half weeks this summer.  Touring’s fun, but it definitely has its ups and downs.  Meeting people and playing with amazing bands makes up for all the bullshit you have to deal with though.  Best times.

Jared:  I love it.

Mario:  I wish I could tour more.  Working on it!


What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of 2014?  I know as I write this you all are out on the road actually but I don’t know if you all have anything else planned for the rest of the year.

James:  We’re going to do some weekend warrior stuff here and there, but I want to concentrate on writing and recording some new music for the rest of the year.


Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with over the past few years?

James:  Torche and Coliseum come to mind.  More recently, we’ve played with a bunch of killer bands on tour, such as Gay Witch Abortion, Wymyns Prysyn, Pretty Please, Lechuguillas, Glassing…  Gosh, there are too many to remember.

Jared:  I haven’t been in the band long, but sharing stages with Gay Witch Abortion, Wymyns Prysyn and Ghost Police have been highlights for me.


Mario:  Torche, Hawks, Wymyns Prysn, Glassing, and so many I can’t remember either...

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

James:  The Torche guys are super nice dudes.  They’d probably be a blast to share the road with. Melvins.  Boris.  Goblin.  Zombi.  Nine Inch Nails.


Jared:  What James said.

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

James:  There are so many.  On this last tour, in Conway, Arizona, this guy opening for us had been on tour about six weeks, and had really bad strep throat.  He drives up after staying in the hospital all day high as fuck on codeine.  He wears a blue onesie onstage, berates the crowd in between songs, and sings songs about how smoking cigarettes is cool.  He was high as fuck, telling kids “Who the fuck are you people? What kind of people live in this town?  I drove up to this building and just knew this show would suck.  This is hell!”.  It was incredible.  I almost died laughing.


Jared:  That dude in Conway, Arizona was hilarious!  On our last tour, we managed to land a show on New Years Eve in Clarksville, Tennessee.  Us and the dudes in Ghost Police ended up playing to a bunch of college kids high on acid and dressed in their spirit animal attire.  They just kind of sat at the tables and were probably wondering what was going on.

Mario:  That one band with the “Cesspool” song was a trip in Houston.


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


James:  In terms of merch, I design most of it.  I screen print everything myself, or with my girlfriend.  For album covers, we always use local artists whose work I admire.  We’ve used artists such as Meghan Fest, Michael Velliquette, Nicholas Hay, Linda Arredondo, and Underbelly Printing for our artwork.  As an artist and art teacher, artwork is really important in the band, especially album art.  In terms of messages in the artwork, I think the new album has a kind of dark, southern Occult mysticism to it, which I think goes hand in hand with the music.



With all of the various methods 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 listening to and or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, can you talk a little bit about why?

James:  I prefer vinyl over anything else.  I’m also big on cassettes.  I’ve got a pretty sweet record and tape collection.  I recently got a CD player from Goodwill, so I’ve been playing some older CDs too.  I rarely buy CDs though; I try to keep it analog when I can.

Jared:  I prefer vinyl and cassettes.

Mario:  I’m getting back into vinyl and cassettes.  I’m not a huge collector though.

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

James:  I’ve got a fairly large vinyl collection.  Mostly modern stuff, and a lot of movie soundtracks.

I grew up around a pretty big collection of music and my dad was constantly picking me up anything that I thought sounded cool from the local shops when I was a kid.  I would kick back with a set of headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the cover and just let the whole thing carry me off on this trip, man!  There was something magical about having a physical object to hold an experience along with the music that always made for a more complete listening experience, at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

James:  Yeah, my mom has a pretty cool record collection.  I remember when I was a kid I copied her Sabbath I album to a cassette and listened to it on my boombox a lot.  She also had Dark Side Of The Moon on vinyl, and that was pretty important.  I remember the feeling of being awestruck looking at gatefold album covers by Yes and Floyd, along with the triple-fold Woodstock record and all that shit.  I’ve always loved albums.

Digital music is here, and it’s here in a big way.  Digital music is just the tip of the iceberg, though.  When you combine it with the internet that’s when things get really crazy.  Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by, allowed an unparalleled level of communication and eradicated a lot of bands that are related to geography that would have crippled a band even a few years ago.  On the other hand though, while people maybe exposed to more music than ever they’re not necessarily interested in paying for it and illegal piracy is running rampant right now.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

James:  It’s a blessing and a curse.  It’s good because anyone can hear you.  We get Swedish kids liking us on Facebook.  A negative is that anyone can put their music up, and there sure is a lot of mediocre shit out there, so the market is kinda oversaturated right now.  Labels are still viable because they wade through the shite and curate a roster.  It’s like throwing an art show.  If you like one band on a label, there’s a good chance that you’ll like a few more too.


I try to keep up with as many good bands as I possibly can.  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?

James:  There’s a bunch of great shit in South Texas.  Since this is a psych based mag, you should definitely check out the band Sungod, and their member Michael Sharp’s solo stuff; super cool.

Mario:  Check out Mike Sharp’s stuff for sure.  Last two albums are on constant rotation at my place.

What about nationally and internationally?

James:  I can recommend you some great horror films.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, it was awesome learning so much about the band and I hope you all at least had some fun looking back on everything you’ve done and managed to accomplish as a band.  I swear I’m done with my question, but before we call it a day I’d like to open the floor up to you for a moment.  Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?

James:  Yeah, thanks for reading.  Definitely check out our new album on Learning Curve Records and get that shit on vinyl.  Also, Crowquill Records just reissued our album from 2011 on vinyl, so get that too.  We’re really proud of these vinyl releases, they’re both beautiful and these labels deserve your hard-earned chump change.  And find us on the internet.  And come to a show!  Free hugs!

Jared:  Many thanks for reading!

Mario:  I have said this before, but the support for this band is overwhelming at times.  I’m thankful for that and to play with such talented guys.  Thanks!


DISCOGRAPHY 
(2006)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy - The Grasshopper Lies Heavy EP – CD – Self-Released (Limited to 1,000 copies with hand silkscreened covers by ThumbPrint Press)
(2007)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – Gun EP – CD – Forgotten Empire records
(2008)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – Soft Noise EP – CD – Forgotten Empire records
(2010)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – Every Man For Himself and God Against All – Digital, CD, 12” – Self-Released/Crowquill Records (Crowquill 12” 1st pressing limited to 300 Black and Pink Vinyl copies)
(2010)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy/Sohns – Werewolf: The Grasshopper Lies Heavy & Sohns – Digital, Cassette Tape – Self-Released?
(2010)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy/Hawks – Fluffer – Digital, Cassette Tape – Self-Released?
(2013)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy/God Townes – In Love – Digital, 7” – Texas Is Funny Records [The Grasshopper Lies Heavy contributes the track “Sucker”] (Limited to 200 Pink Vinyl copies, 200 Gold Vinyl copies and 100 Blue Vinyl copies)
(2014)  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – All Sadness, Grinning Into Flow – Digital, 12” – Learning Curve Records

© Andrew Vertiz

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014