INTERVIEW: JAMES WOODARD (THE GRASSHOPPER LIES HEAVY)

Today I had the opportunity to chat with James Woodard of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. I’ve never met James in real life, so it was fun getting to know a bit about him and his exceptional band. If you aren’t familiar with them, head on over to Bandcamp or YouTube or whatever you use and give them a listen. Anyhow, huge thanks to James for sacrificing his lunch hour to chat with me!

Live at Babel The Rock Tower in Tachikawa, Japan

Jason – I became aware of your band, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, maybe three or so years ago. I liked how the band stretched it’s legs with different musical styles in creation of a greater whole – from in your face riffs, to moody post-rock and straight up noise and atmospheric vibes. How did the band come together, and was it always intended to encompass so many sonic tangents?

James – The band came together as a bedroom project – I’d record riffs, and program drums for them with Drumkit from Hell. I eventually wrote an EP and put it out with fake drums in order to find more members – this is basically how the band started.

In terms of mixing genres, I just write what comes naturally. I generally really enjoy genre-bending bands, such as Boris, that change genres on the fly. It sounds natural even though it’s iconoclastic. I respect that a lot.

It was kind of always like this with the band. I’ve only ever written music for myself. I’m not trying to cater toward whatever genre or crowd. I just write what comes intuitively.

Jason – I was going to say that the free range aesthetic reminds me a lot of Boris or aspects of the Melvins!

James – I truly love Boris. Huge inspirations.

Jason – You said you put out that first EP to recruit some band members, did you find people locally?

James – Yeah, I found a bass player and eventually a rotating cast of drummers. Mario joined as permanent bassist in 2007 or ’08 and he remained in the band until this year. Besides Mario, we’ve had a thousand drummers. Our current one, Steven, may be #7 or 8. I’ve lost count. He’s been in the band since 2018 or ’19.

Jason – Very Spinal Tap, of ya!

James – No drummers dead yet.

Jason – YET.

James – There’s still time.

Jason – You’re based out of San Antonio, right?

James – Yeah.

Jason – What’s it like there, for a band like yours?

James – Hah, well, it was hard coming up because we weren’t “metal” enough for the metal scene, and we just scared the indie kids, so coming up it was tough. Eventually we cultivated our own following and carved our own niche. There aren’t really any other bands that sound like us here (except for maybe PINKO).

Jason – PINKO rips.

James – San Antonio’s scene is real cliquey. There’s very little merit-based element to it at all. It’s also very bar-culture oriented, which I wholeheartedly reject. I’m not a bar person at all. We just want places to play and we want to open for cool touring acts. I couldn’t care less about any of the other stuff.

At least rent is still affordable here.

Jason – Is The Grasshopper Lies Heavy your first band, or were you kicking around town in earlier groups as well?

James – Yeah, Grasshopper was my first band. I didn’t know anybody in the scene except the people that worked at the record shops. So I would put out demo CD-Rs and shit in the record shop. That’s how I met Mario and a bunch of other collaborators at the time.

But yeah, first band and long-time main band. I’ve played in a bunch of other acts through the years; I played drums in The Islands and the Sea, I played bass in Fuck City, I play guitar and bass occasionally in The Sissies, and I had a brief stint with Blacknail playing a broken noise guitar.

Jason – What made you want to play in a band to begin with? …you know, aside from losing colossal amounts of money at every turn? lol

James – I was just obsessed with heavy metal and rock and roll as a teenager. I was obsessed with how cool guitars were. I also saw how tough guys could actually express themselves sincerely through music, which I think moved me as a teenager going through shit and having pretty shitty / toxic adult male role models in my life.

Plus, I saw Fear Factory when I was 14, and after the show their fatass guitarist Dino had a girl under each arm. I was like “damn I need to get a guitar”

Jason – Ahahaha! (not to diminish James’ previous profound statement, but this was my honest response to the quip about Dino)

James – Shit works dude! I’ve only had one partner that didnt see my band perform before they started dating me! Hahahaha!

Jason – Ha! I think my wife first liked me because I played in a band, but now she finds it annoying because of how practices and shows interfere with literally everything. Hahaha!

So, despite being in a cliquey San Antonio scene, you somehow managed to tour Japan. How did that come about?

James – Well, we had done like a zillion US tours, and Steven had done a Japan tour with his previous band Bright Like the Sun, so we decided to do it. He already knew the booking agent / tour manager so it was actually pretty simple to set up.

Jason – Was it a great experience? I’ve always heard the audiences for heavy bands in Japan are 1000% into it.

James – Absolutely.

We are planning on bringing one or two bands we met here to the States once the world stops ending.

Westerners could learn A LOT from the Japanese approach to concerts / venues. I could literally go on and on about it. …so much professionalism, mutual respect, and punctuality. Great sound every night. Professional backlines.

Jason – Outside of the US, I’ve only been to a few concerts in Europe and even they were drastically different.

James – Yeah, we want to do Europe next. Most of our positive press from the new album is coming from over there. Especially France

Jason – Nice. I’ll always wonder why European audiences treat heavy US bands so much better than the US does. Must be something to do with our cultural identity of a stymied Puritan eeking out a life of self-imposed misery. It’s like, “you can’t enjoy anything, it’s wrong!”

James – It’s entitlement. Having a band perform should be an event. It’s a celebration.

Here, it’s a Tuesday. Who cares? lol

Jason – Valid point! Random turn… what got you into aluminum guitars?

James – They look really cool. hahahah

Jason – Totally.

James – My 1982 Les Paul Standard is still my #1 practice / recording guitar, but I don’t want to gig with it anymore (too sentimental to me). Also I like throwing guitars and dont want to break my LP.
I like EGCs because really only the tuning pegs can break hahaha

Jason – I wanted an EGC years ago, back when they were still affordable, and I was hemming and hawing because $2000 was too much… now… ooof. I don’t even want to think about it.

Ah! I never heard anyone relate that idea before… to use the aluminum guitar more so for durability than anything, interesting!

James – All of my EGCs are secondhand. I can’t pay those new prices lol.

Jason – What’s the typical backline for a Grasshopper Lies Heavy set? Are you guys piling in mountains of amps, or keeping it pretty simple? The tones are so gnarly!

James – Since we are a 3-piece, I do like to play through 2 heads and 2 cabinets. I use a 1975 Marshall Super Lead and a 1978 Marshall JMP through two Sunn 4x12s (the 90s era ones with 75w Celestions).

I generally don’t full-stack anymore, but I will sit the cabs side by side with the head cases underneath them for height.

The last time we toured without a backline I just brought a Marshall 4×12 stereo cab for simplicity. Still louder than hell.

Jason –I hope to see y’all live some day to experience it in person!

I know Texas is on the ropes with Covid at the moment – are you guys still practicing regularly, or even starting to book out shows?

James – Our next two shows have been canceled, but we are still on the books for No Coast on Oct 2nd (NOTE NO COAST features a laundry list of excellent bands, from Helmet to Kowloon Walled City, Grizzlor to Exhalants, etc.). We are taking the news week by week, and I would never hold it against anyone to cancel shows right now. I’m still on the fence about how I feel performing. If venues are doing outside shows where everyone has to be vaxxed or test negative + masks, I think that is a safe way to go. We’ll see what the situation is like in two weeks. Seems pretty hopeless at the moment.

Jason – Yeah. I’m supposed to hit up the Decibel Metal fest in Philly at the end of September to see Deadguy and I’m nervously watching to see if it gets postponed.

We played a packed show a week or so ago and there were maybe 3 people in masks. In the back of my mind I was thinking, are we being reckless?

James – Yeah it’s just not a good time right now. It definitely feels irresponsible. Shit almost felt normal mid-July, but it’s really ugly out there. The full hospitals don’t lie.

Jason – I’m worried it will never be a good time again.

James – Since we aren’t getting out and playing gigs, we are trying to do different things here at home. We are working on some collaborations and cover songs for different comps, etc. coming down the pipeline.

Jason – I love how you keep churning out videos to support the album!

James – Yeah, we are doing a lot of video content. I’m thinking about doing some more guitar playthroughs and commentary videos too. People seemed to like them the last time I tried.

We also might start multi-camming and filming our practices in case we get some bangin’ takes we can upload to the Internet.

Jason – Smart. We are such a video based culture anymore, I think it’s absolutely the way to go.

The Video Killed The Radio Star, but it’s currently also the only way to get any traction these days.

James – It’s so easy to say, “here, here’s our new album, enjoy” and so the hype around the record just immediately fizzles out. I want to keep the content coming so the album gets the opportunity to hit as many fresh ears as possible.

Videos are weird. I like creating them and doing trippy things, but the flipside of that is that people want bands to have an “image” and we absolutely are NOT that band.

Jason – That video for Bullet Curtain had me mesmerized. The abstract shots with the subtitled prose… A+ effort there. Are you using any stock footage, or are you guys shooting all of that yourselves?

James – In the past I used a lot of stock footage. The videos would basically be Goodwill VHS collages (like the videos for Dead Songs for Dead Bands and Crocodile Tears).

All of the videos from the new album are our footage. We have 4 videos for the new album so far, and we plan on doing at least 2 more.

Yeah! Bullet Curtain was a fun video to make. I filmed that around my house, and after I edited it I came up with the idea of the subtitled poem.

Jason – Love it. Good job.

James – Came out great. It was one of those “spur of the moment” ideas that I think came out really well.

Jason – In all your travels, what are some bands you came across that you feel more folks need to know about?

James – Good question…

Jason – I like to ask this of everyone I chat with. It’s cool to hear about some little band from the middle of nowhere that put out some badass record and broke up a decade ago.

James – I could go on and on about all of the amazing bands we’ve played with, but I figured this would be a more fun answer…

Some Japanese bands we played with that people need to hear:

Lightning Swells Forever – Kobe, JP

Amazing Ozzy worship. These dudes absolutely RIP. They make American doom bands seem sad and lazy. Seriously. Amazing riffs, amazing vocals, killer energy, sickeningly tight live band. I made one of their music videos.

The Devils & Libido – Tokyo, JP

Three-piece band reminiscent of Hella or Lightning Bolt. Noisy, disgusting, and… dancy? The bass player is the driving force here – he plays through an Ampeg fridge and a Jazz Chorus and is just enthralling to watch. The entire band rips.

Blond New Half – Kyoto, JP

This is a kind of guttery, hipstery, punk rock that gets into your brain like an earworm and just stays there. They have a hypnotic quality from repetitive riffs that reminds me of something like Brainbombs meets those plastic neon green sunglasses from the 80s. They’re anarchists and don’t give a fuck. I wish I could speak Japanese so I could talk with them a bit more when I met them, but they definitely left a lasting impression on me.

Nim – Kyoto, JP

If you like Emo and Emo-adjacent bands, Nim rules. Their most recent release (a single called “Dreamy”) features female lead vocals and it is so absolutely compelling. It sounds a bit like My Bloody Valentine mixed with Blonde Redhead with some gorgeous post-rock brush strokes. I could literally listen to this song 400 times in a row and still not get tired of it. Go listen to it now!!!

Jason – That sounds like a killer homework assignment for me!

Here’s another question I like to ask… if someone came up to you and said they wanted to play in a band, what advise would you give them?

James – You have to have a day job that makes enough money for you to fund your creative endeavors. If you’re broke all the time you can’t tour, repair your gear, pay for studio time, etc. Your band will most likely never make money, so get your life straight so you can afford to be an artist.

Jason – Serious words of wisdom there.

Aside from your fantastic new album A Cult That Worships a God Of Death, is there anything else you want to plug with regards to The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, or anything else?

James – I would say that if they are adventurous listeners, check out our ambient releases. I scored the soundtrack to a short film a few years ago and I think the record that came out of that is quite good, yet few people paid attention because it wasn’t “metal”. I’d also love to just do more work like that. So yeah, hire me y’all.

Jason – C’mon folks, hire the guy! lol. Thank you so much for your time today, it was fun chatting with you!

James – Yeah man, thank you!

INTERVIEW: AARON DALLISON (AXIOMA, BRAIN TENTACLES, KEELHAUL, ETC.)

Tonight, I had the opportunity to chat with a guy that I’ve been a big fan of since the late 90s; Mr. Aaron Dallison! Aaron is a musician lifer that’s done time in Keelhaul, Axioma, Brain Tentacles, Perdition Sect, We Live By Night, Six Kills Nine, Mofos, Escalation Anger, and many, many more. How many folks can run off a resume like that? Geeeezus. Dude is a legend. I met Aaron through Dave Johnson, and it was a bucket list item to get to play a show with Keelhaul at the Happy Dog a lifetime ago. I’ve also been lucky enough to share Ampeg fridges with him a few times in more recent years when DeathCrawl played with Axioma. He even lent me an amp one night at Now That’s Class after dirty stage power blew up my Bassman 300 Pro. Huge thanks to Aaron for sparing some of his Friday evening to entertain my questions!

Photo by Doug French

Jason – I first came to know of you in the winter of ’98 or ’99, seeing Keelhaul at the Agora with Shallow, North Dakota. That show was monumental in my life, and something I still remember vividly. I once read something about Keelhaul that essentially said you started out as a touring band because you didn’t want to waste any time being a “local band.” Was that true?

Aaron – Indeed it was. We might of played a couple/few shows in Clevo before we jumped in the van for a 6 week run by ourselves. That was probably ’97 when we did that.

Jason – Was it nerve wracking to hit the road so hard, so early?

Aaron – Fuck yeah it was! No cell phones or internet.

Jason – Right! Looking back, would you do it that way again?

Aaron – I wouldn’t change a thing. A band like us would have never existed otherwise.

Jason – That’s interesting you say that… why do you feel that way? Would it have just “fizzled out” if you’d camped out in Ohio at the beginning?

Aaron – We wouldn’t have met the people that became lifelong fans from all over. We wouldn’t have met people instrumental in releasing our records. We wouldn’t have had the experiences that made us become the band we were. And more importantly, we wouldn’t have ever been able to sample corndogs from every state in the 48.

Jason – Ahahaha! Excellent points! I never even stopped to think about the business aspect of getting in the van and building a network, mostly because I’m too awkward to connect with most folks!

I know you guys toured the wheels off with bands like ISIS, Mastodon, Unsane, and EyeHateGod – what was it like doing night after night with characters like those?

Aaron – Wouldn’t change it for the world. Made lifelong peeps with some of the most talented people in the solar system.

Jason – Did it push you guys to take things to the next level by sharing stages with peers like that? I ask because every release saw the band evolving, and that’s not always something that happens with rock bands.

Aaron – Most definitely. We were lucky in that our peers were at the forefront of an amazing time for underground heavy music.

Jason – Keelhaul is one of my all time favorite bands, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your career. That’s wild! Most folks are lucky if they are part of one amazing band, but you’ve been in a bunch! Axioma, Six Kills Nine, Brain Tentacles, We Live By Night, a stint in Mofos… I’m sure I’m missing a bunch. Do you ever reflect on how incredibly prolific you’ve been? What keeps you inspired?

Aaron – Too dumb to quit.

Jason – Ha! So what are you currently working on?

Aaron – Start recording new Axioma record next week, and oddly enough, I’m also flying to Chicago next week to write/record/who knows what else with Brain Tentacles. Perdition Sect debut show in front of an audience in a couple months, and hopefully 6K9 record released soon.

Jason – Yes! I was going to ask about the Six Kills Nine record! Jon (Vinson – drummer) sent me a teaser of a rough mix with vocals sometime last year and I’ve been wondering when it might finally get a release! Also, can’t believe I forgot to mention Perdition Sect earlier – that’s another killer project you are involved in that released a total ripper in 2020! Dang.

Given a choice, which would you rather play in a band: bass or guitar?

Aaron – Luckily I can choose both. I love them equally. I guess to even contemplate an answer would have to rely on the people involved, the situation, and the gear. So I guess that’s not really an answer.

Jason – Nah, I get it. I remember Dave once jokingly(?) telling me he would only play bass in a band if he was the worst guitarist in the bunch! …so your answer makes total sense to me. What first got you into wanting to play?

Aaron – When I was like 6 years old, I found a KISS record in my uncle’s room. He was at school and would have shit if he knew I was in there. I asked my grandmother “Who are these girls?”, so she put on the record for me. Ruined my life.

Jason – Hahaha! It’s interesting how many folks I’ve interviewed for this blog that first got into playing thanks to KISS. Love ’em or hate ’em, those dudes jump started an entire generation of rockers.

Aaron – You must be talking to some old mfers.

Jason – Hey! I’m no spring chicken! You mentioned gear earlier… do you consider yourself a gear hound, or do you just work with whatever you have at hand?

Aaron – Maybe not a gear hound. I enjoy getting different pieces and experimenting. I definitely love working with what I have at hand, and manipulating such things. I’m quite universal creatively, although when it comes to live gear, I tend to be very specific.

Jason – What’s one piece of gear that you feel is a must have for your live sound?

Aaron – For bass… an 8×10 Ampeg cab. No substitutes.

Jason – Heck yeah. It’s an industry standard for a reason. I’m one of those idiots that’s paid full price for a new 810 not once, but twice, because I was too stupid to know the secondary market existed! Woof!

Any bands out there at the moment that you feel more people need to check out?

Aaron – Waylon Jennings.

Jason – Ha! Fair enough. I never listened to much Waylon, I was more into Cash and Hank Sr. My country exposure has always been a bit limited thanks to my blue collar rock and roll parents.

Are you ready for the imminent return to “normal?” I was out today with my kids and the masks are already all gone pretty much everywhere we went.

Aaron – Yeah, I ain’t gonna lie… I’m not looking forward to the coming shit show. I was happy with limited interactions. Humans fucking suck.

Jason – Yeah, I’m torn. I kinda liked wearing my mask because I didn’t have to smell other people for the past year. That was a blessing!

So we’ve got new Axioma and the debut Six Kills Nine to look forward to, possibly new Brain Tentacles… anything else you want to plug or promote?

Aaron – I would love to promote common sense, but sense isn’t common.

Jason – It’s rare – gotta check eBay! Oh.. hey! What’s going on with that We Live By Night record you started making before lockdown? Did it ever get finished?

Aaron – It did not. Still have to track vox, then mix. Covid casualty so far. We’ll make it happen eventually.

Jason – Right on, I understand the Covid delay all too well myself. That’s all I’ve got, Aaron, thanks for your time tonight!

Aaron – Right on! Enjoyed it.

INTERVIEW: STEVEN GARDNER (REBREATHER, GARTER SHAKE)

In keeping with recent days, I snuck in a great chat with Steven Gardner of Rebreather and Garter Shake. I’ve never actually met Steven in real life, so it was fun getting to know a bit about him. Steven’s been pounding the ever living snot out of drum sets for most of his life, so be sure to check out his bands ASAP if you somehow have not already.

Photo by Little Blackbird Photo – November 2020 @ Mindrocket Recording Studios

Jason – So, I’ve never met you in “real life,” although I’ve seen you perform with Rebreather countless times going back years. Funny story – back in the early 2000s, we were a fledgling garage band with a profile on MP3.com and that’s where I first heard Rebreather! The sound hit me pretty hard, and I think at the time I liked it because it reminded me of Shallow, North Dakota (who I had just discovered) and because the band was from my own “neck of the woods” – so to speak. Can you tell me how the band got started?

Steven – Oh wow, I dig Shallow, North Dakota, thanks! So Rebreather dates back to 1999 and there were a few phases with this band, as there has been a total of 6 members through the years. I came into the picture around 2007. The band has broken up or paused a few times throughout the years due to life things and whatnot. I think Barley (Rantilla) penned our motto “on your mark…get set…quit.” I met Barley through my dear pal Jeremy Koerber (Lake Lake) the super talented and OG drummer of Rebreather. Jeremy (who plays every instrument well) and I played in a couple Ohio bands previously, one being Favorite Action Hero and another Grandstands On Titan. GOT used to practice in Rebreather’s original practice space (Barley’s garage). Jeremy and I then formed the short lived band Low Divide with Barley. Low Divide really influenced the next phase of Rebreather. That started my awesome musical relationship with Barley up to this day.

Jason – Oh wow! That’s cool! Lake Lake is great, I didn’t realize the connection there. When did you first get into playing drums? Your physical playing style (posture, kit arrangement, etc) is really unique and fun to watch. I’m curious how you developed that approach.

Steven – Yeah, I love Lake Lake.

So I started playing drums really young, like in 3rd grade. My parents got me a practice pad and I started taking drums lessons from then up into high school. My dad was a big jazz/big band/soul/blues fan and had a great record collection that I grew up with. My Uncle Army was a serious studio/session jazz musician (saxophone, clarinet) from the Steubenville, Ohio area. He was childhood friends/bandmates with Dean Martin and had a cool little home studio in the basement of his house with a sweet Teac reel to reel player. Made a big impression on me. I played in my high school marching band and I think that’s where I really learned rudiments and how to hit hard. I’m a big dude so I learned that if I sit higher on top of the drums, I had more control. That changed my whole approach and feel. I spread out my floor tom quite a bit due to my wingspan. It does seem a bit goofy. Years back Rebreather played Total Fest in 2009 in Missoula, Montana with tons of cool bands like Black Elk, Japanther, and Helm’s Alee. After our set, a dude came up to me and said that I play drums like I’m fighting a bear. That was a neat compliment.

Jason – Haha! “Fighting a bear” is a great way to describe it. …and that answers my next question, in that you did come up in a musical family. Since you grew up on jazz/soul/blues, was there any attempt to keep you out of the realm of “rock drumming?”

Steven – No not really, but when I brought over my rock records once to my Uncle’s studio and played them, he gave me a disgusted look and said, “it doesn’t say anything.” lol. I dug some of the classic rock stuff early on but the real game changer for me was when I discovered record labels like Touch and Go, AmRep, SST and Dischord.

Jason – Heck yeah! I had a similar awakening after high school. I was going to college in Toledo and I’d hit up the Record Exchange and grab anything I could find on AmRep (which was oddly plentiful up there?). I didn’t really find out about Touch And Go until later.

Can you tell me two bands that you considered game changers for you?

Steven – Game changers, hard to name just two, but off the top of my head: The Jesus Lizard is a no brainer for sure, Unsane, and I’ll throw in Tar.

Jason – Unsane is very special to me, so 100% agreement there. In addition to Rebreather, are you playing in any other bands at the moment?

Steven – Around the end of 2016, I started playing in the Pittsburgh/Cleveland-based band Garter Shake. It’s been a blast playing with 3 incredibly talented women. Very different style/sound of band from Rebreather but I love that.

Jason – That’s right, I do remember reading something about Garter Shake – possible shared online by Westside Bowl. How would you describe the sound of Garter Shake?

Steven – It’s often been described as a mix between Sleater-Kinney and The B-52’s, with riot grrrl and pop sensibilities.

Jason – Nice! That’s sounds cool.

How did the shutdown impact your creativity? Obviously everyone has been knocked out of commission, but has it also killed your drive or perhaps been really inspiring?

Steven – It’s been tough at times as I’ve always viewed playing and creating music as a major therapeutic outlet for me. I miss playing music live. I miss the other bands/friends/camaraderie from the scenes I play within.

Rebreather has safely kept churning some but at a slower pace with doing a few livestreams and working on finishing up recordings since COVID.

Jason – I feel the same way – I rarely hang out with anyone, so to me… shows were a nice place to catch up with folks and enjoy a communal experience.

Speaking of playing live and other bands – what are some bands you think more people need to know about?

Steven – There are so many quality northeast Ohio bands. Not being biased but Youngstown has some great bands such as Lake Lake, Daggrs, Wild Wings, We The Creature, Album, Between The Witches, White Rican, Papers, among others with The wonderful Westside Bowl being the Mecca for all that talent. Then there’s those bands a bit further up north/west: Actual Form, Goosed, Frayle, Radian, Pillars, Enhailer, Sexypigdivas, Night Goat, Modem, Black Spirit Crown, Sparrowmilk, Hiram-Maxim to name some. 😊 oh my, Columbus bands so many: Bridesmaid, Lo-Pan, Matter of Planets, Reflex Machine, Eye to name a few. Oh Pittsburgh where I live: my good pals in Microwaves. Horehound, Trvss, Limousine Beach, Outsideinside, Come Holy Spirit, The Long Hunt, Action Camp, Lady Beast, JakeTheHawk, to name some more. Jesus, there’s Horseburner in West Virginia, I could go on and on obviously, I just did. Good stuff in the region. Sorry big list, sure I left some cool bands off that people need to know more about. 🤷‍♂️

Jason – That’s a righteous list for sure! We are blessed to have stellar talent and creativity in our region, no doubt. I haven’t travelled enough or lived in enough places to make such a claim, but it has to be one of the most fertile areas of quality, original bands outside of the major markets (and probably even better than some of the smaller major markets, if that makes sense). The chances of seeing a random show and leaving impressed are stupid good around here.

A big part of Rebreather’s impressive live show is the visuals. Who crafts those?

Steven – That’s all thanks to our bass player, Steve Wish! He does an awesome job with the video/projections. We started adding that element to Rebreather shows regularly around the time I joined the band way back. At that time, Barley’s brother Briar did all the awesome art/video stuff back then and after our most recent hiatus and when Steve Wish came into the band, he took on that role.

Jason – Well, it’s always been well done, and adds another dimension to the show. Killer!

Steven – Oh, thanks Jason!

Jason – You mentioned you’ve been finishing some recordings – is there an EP or LP on the horizon?

Steven – Yes, COVID has definitely slowed down the process of course, but a new 7 song , I guess you’d say EP, is on the horizon. We are super stoked to be working with Aqualamb Records out of Brooklyn, NY (an awesomely creative and diverse label loaded with a bunch of killer bands/artists) and the release date is TBD.

Jason – Awesome! That’s a great label (home to bands like Hiram-Maxim, LoPan, Frayle, Black Black Black, etc.) that goes the extra mile in putting out cool records. Congrats!

Anything else you want to plug or promote?

Steven – No not really, other than promoting my awesome wife and super cute dogs, Lois and Captain. 😁

Jason – Ha! Yeah, having awesome partners certainly helps keep us playing and creating.

Thank you so much for your time today! It’s been great chatting with you.

Steven – Thanks Jason, it was super fun! Looking forward to a real face to face interaction one of these days, hopefully sooner than later.

INTERVIEW: AARON ROGERS (ULTRASPHINX, DEATH BY AUDIO)

Today I had the good fortune to chat with Aaron Rogers (Ultrasphinx, Death By Audio)! Aaron is a lot younger than me, but we had a similar rural upbringing (him even more so than me). It was fun talking with him and learning about his experiences. I met him when he was doing sound at Annabell’s many moons ago and he’s been a busy guy in the ensuing years. Be sure to check out his old band Ultrasphinx, as well as some of the Aaron’s Bass Hole columns he wrote during his time working for Earthquaker Devices. You can learn a lot from that series!

Huge thanks to Aaron for his time today!

Photo by Sara Sanger (The New Trust) @ Flint Local 432 in Flint MI

Jason – I met you when you were running sound at Annabell’s, probably wearing a Jesus Lizard shirt or something that would have caught my attention. Anytime we played there and saw you were on the schedule, we knew it was going to sound as good as possible. In talking with you back then, I think you hinted that you grew up in rural Ohio – how did you come to find bands like Jesus Lizard there and eventually find yourself working at one of the most iconic underground venues in Akron?

Aaron – Wow. Thanks! I grew up surrounded by corn and soybean fields in Randolph, OH. Besides high school athletics and agriculture there wasn’t much happening there, and the other kids who played guitar or drums were way into Dream Theater and the whole prog metal scene, leaving me sorta on my own, musically. I’m not sure exactly how I discovered the Jesus Lizard or anything, but I do know that I used to skip lunch in high school and buy CDs from Turnup Records in Kent, which is where I bought my first Jesus Lizard and Melvins records, etc.

Around the same time – this would be my sophomore year of high school – I started playing in a band and our guitarist’s English teacher played bass in Interfuse, who got us into the Lime Spider when we were still underage and that’s where it occurred to me that you could mix bands for money. So eventually I was introduced to Jason Tarulli who mixed at the Lime Spider, who gave me a few tips and tossed me my first gigs at Club Khameleon in Kent and then at Annabell’s.

Jason – Nice! Yeah, I spent a lot of time at Friendship Acres campground in Randolph back in the late 80s or early 90s. I too grew up across the street from a working farm and never would have discovered underground music without the aid of VROCK. You’re a lot younger than me (and presumably missed out on the VROCK train), so that’s why I was curious how a kid in Randolph wound up listening to Touch and Go/AmRep stuff. Were you just taking a leap of faith when you bought those early records at Turnup? Like, I can remember buying my first Unsane record and it was solely for the cover art of a decapitated guy laying on train tracks!

Aaron – Haha, I know Friendship Acres. I remember VROCK but I don’t think my palette for heavy music had been developed yet. I knew most of the records I got from Turnip by reputation from reading about them online, but I don’t remember downloading tracks to sample them first or anything like that. For me, I think it was more about discovering the wider world of the “American Underground” scene. I also read Michael Azerrad’s “Our Band Could Be Your Life” for a school assignment or something, so I’d heard a lot of the stories.

Jason – Cool! Somehow I completely spaced on the concept that you had the internet to learn from! I’m so old, I was in college by the time I was learning of bands from the world wide web !

It’s also really cool that the bass player from Interfuse was an English teacher. I had no idea. I saw that band a bunch back in the day and was always way into their racket!

What instrument were you playing in that first band? What lead to you picking that particular instrument?

Aaron – I was playing bass and I played bass because they needed a bassist.

Jason – Naturally! Was music something that ran in your family?

Aaron – Nope. My brother and I are the first musicians as far as I know. But our parents played tons of country radio during the last days of really good country radio–America’s Country Countdown and all that – so I heard hundreds of really well-written songs with great production and arrangements.

Jason – I know from later seeing Octiger that you eventually spent some time as a drummer. Was that also an extension of “the band needed it, so I did it” or had you already been working on that skill set?

Aaron – I played drums in Octiger just to be in a band with Sean Djuricic from Interfuse. We’d talked about starting a band for a long time and when Octiger fell in place we decided there should be two drummers, so I learned how to play the drums.

Jason – That’s awesome and impressive. I loved that band. Dude from Concordia Discors was in that too, right?

Aaron – Thanks! We had a drum kit at the house when I was a kid, but I was hardly a drummer. I didn’t learn even a single rudiment until we started the band, but at least I could hold the sticks. Yeah, actually both Derek and Scott from Concordia Discors were in Octiger.

Jason – Oh nice, I never realized that.

You mentioned good production a moment ago, which reminded me that you worked with Tarulli at Studio Time, right? Did you learn a lot about great production, first hand, in that gig?

Aaron – I did! Prior to Studio Time I was a studio assistant for Jason at his space in Akron (same spot as Studio Time, but I don’t know if he was calling it that just yet) and I was also assisting a songwriter, producer, and engineer named Kevin Coral at his studio in Kent. I was getting sick of driving back and forth on 76 all the time, so I introduced them to each other and shortly after that, Kevin brought in a bunch of gear and Studio Time got started.

Jason – Genius! Where there any records you helped work on there that you are really proud of?

Aaron – To be honest, the vibe was loose enough that it’s hard to give myself specific credit for anything, but I helped out on some Relaxer recordings (not sure if those were released?), was around for some Wesley Bright sessions, and we tracked and mixed most of the Ultrasphinx stuff there

Since Tangerine Studios was in the same building, that’s where I met Ben Vehorn and started working with him, too.

Jason – Oh nice, I didn’t know that. Is that sort of how you eventually wound up working for Earthquaker Devices?

Aaron – Sorta. Ultrasphinx played with Relaxer a bunch of times since Joe Dennis and Jamie Stillman used to be in the Party of Helicopters, so by the time I applied, they had some idea who I was

I’m told Fej liked my soundguy taskmaster-ness and that’s why he hired me to build pedals.

Jason – Makes sense. That gig landed you opportunities to do stuff like NAMM. Was that as cool an experience as I’m guessing, or did it get old?

Aaron – Yes.

Jason – Haha!

Aaron – It’s awesome but exhausting.

Jason – How did you get involved with the Death By Audio team?

Aaron – It’s not the most exciting origin story, but when I started working as a freelancer, I sent them an email and set up a meeting with Oliver and Heather at NAMM, and we have similar musical backgrounds, plus I got my musical start playing all-ages shows at the Orange St., so the DBA venue was inspiring to me, and after that we emailed back and forth for a little while, and they asked me to work with them. It’s been about 3 years now.

Jason – Awesome! …and that’s a great origin story. You went after it! Good for you! I’m loving my Fuzz War on guitar by the way. Still dialing it in on my bass board.

Aaron – It’s great! Stoked it’s working for you. The tone control is touchy, but once you get a feel for it, it’s rad. There’s a few EQ curves happening simultaneously and you can kinda hear it if you listen for it.

Jason – Getting back to Ultrasphinx, that was another excellent band that seemed to just “stop” one day.

Aaron – Thanks! I can’t speak for the other guys but we kept an insane schedule and eventually we tired out.

Jason – I get it. You guys were tight, powerful, tuneful… rad band.

Aaron – I appreciate it. I think we accomplished what we set out to do. People always came to the shows…except for when we played at the same timeslot as the last episode of Breaking Bad.

Jason – Ha! Yeah, I think we played Cleveland once at the same time as a Browns game. Big Mistake.

Aaron – If any bands have a livestream scheduled at the same time as the new WandaVision drop…cancel it.

Jason – Pretty much. How has the past year impacted you? Have you been playing much? Are you feeling any inspiration or alternatively does it have you so bummed out everything feels dull and pointless?

Aaron – Well, I moved to Los Angeles about a year ago and I’m typing this back in Akron, so the impact has been huge. I try to play an instrument every day and if I’m not excited by what I’m playing then I’ll goof off with pedals or learn a couple of them five-dollar chords or something.

Jason – Woah, five dollar chords?! Settle down, now!

Aaron – Right?! Sometimes I even fret with my pinky.

Jason – Ahahaha!

Aaron – I wouldn’t say I’m writing full songs, but I’ve been collecting ideas and chord progressions and stuff that maybe I’ll develop later.

Jason – I’m sorry to hear how hard it’s hit you. That sucks.

Aaron – Moving back has actually been nice because I have a house to myself again.

Jason – Yeah, I can believe that. Having your own space where nobody can get their greasy paws on that sweet EGC bass of yours is nice.

I always like to ask folks, what are some bands flying under the radar that you think more people need to give a chance?

Aaron – I don’t hear nearly enough talk about Obnox. Bim has been on a hot streak with LP after LP that’s just untouchable. He’s threading this needle between free music and mixtapes and the DIY underground that gets more interesting all the time

Jason – He been pretty prolific – where do I start?

Aaron – “Bang Messiah” is probably the easiest point of entry, then I’d check out his latest “Savage Raygun,” and if you like those, then start at the beginning with “I’m Bleeding Now” and work your way through

Jason – Thanks! Anything you want to plug or promote?

Aaron – Fuck white supremacy, fuck capitalism, and do not let the bastards wear you down.

Other than that, I got nothin’.

Jason – Amen! Thank you so much for your time today! Good luck, and stay safe.

Aaron – Of course. Thanks for thinking of me!

INTERVIEW: DAVID KUZY (MICROWAVES, PHOSPHENE AUDIO, ETC.)

Today, I was fortunate to chat with David Kuzy, guitarist/co-vocalist in Microwaves. I had never heard of Microwaves until early 2019, when I chanced upon their most excellent LP Via Weightlessness on Bandcamp. I reviewed it, and months later, was stoked to be offered a chance to play with them at Buzzbin (along with Night Goat and Multicult). I met David that night, and we became Facespace friends afterwards.

Fast forward to late last summer, as the pandemic raged on, Jason Craig and myself got together to record a couple of new Dhawa tracks. I knew the tracks had potential, if only I could get someone really talented to play guitar and handle the vocals. Well, I sent David a message via Facespace and asked if he was into handling the guitars for the songs. Not only was he into it, he had his parts written, recorded, and sent back to me within a week or two. Wow! Sadly, the vocals have been more challenging to nail down, but hopefully I’ll get something soon from the current collaborator that’s signed on to do them. I can’t wait to share these songs, as they are pretty fun listens.

Anyhow, huge thanks to David for chatting with me, and be sure you check out both MICROWAVES and his solo works ASAP.
https://microwaves.bandcamp.com/
https://microwaves31g.bandcamp.com/album/via-weightlessness

Jason – I first met you at Buzzbin when we had a chance to open the Microwaves/Multicult show in the spring of 2019. I had just discovered the most excellent Via Weightlessness only a few months prior and was blown away! Seeing it live was even more impressive. Can you shed any light on how Microwaves came to be?

David – Before Microwaves, John Roman (Microwaves – Drummer) was in a band called The 1985. I knew all those guys, and occasionally filled in for one of their guitar players, Jeff Schreckengost, when he couldn’t do certain shows due to work. At some point, in early 1999, John ended up not being in the 1985, not sure of the details.

He called me up and we decided to try something new. It took a little while to get going, and there were a bunch of name and personnel changes, but the original Microwaves line up, with Steve Moore on bass, played its first show in September of 2000.

Jason – You guys have such a cool, sonic signature. How quickly the band find “it’s sound?”

David – The foundation of what we sound like was there early on. We still play at least one song from the first full length, but we probably got better at sounding like ourselves over time.

Jason – You mentioned that you were filling in in The 1985 in the late 90s, so I’m assuming you’ve been playing in bands for a while. How did you get started?

David – Well, I am old. I had a really sort of inept original band in 1985-6 in high school. We were pretty terrible, but insisted on writing our own stuff. The funniest thing, looking back, was how bad the gear was back then. I played through a used Ampeg combo that would not distort and I didn’t get a distortion pedal until later.

Anyway, we played a few shows and fell apart. The drummer acts in low budget horror movies now.

Later, when I moved to Pittsburgh and started going to shows, I met John and some other guys. We had a half-assed band before they started The 1985, but it quickly fizzled out.

Jason – Ha! Our first backline was 100% Crate, so I feel you on the “beginner” gear point. Did you come from a musical family, or rather… how did you get into playing guitar?

David – I did not come from a musical family. I pretty much saw assorted bands on TV and decided it would be a cool thing to do. My earliest inspirations were probably John Denver, Kiss and, slightly later, The Police, lol.

I also had one of the very old Crate amps that actually looked like a crate, btw.

Jason – My friend’s dad had one of those too! I think that’s how we knew about the brand and went all in on it.

Besides Microwaves, you’ve also been putting out solo albums, where you explore some really interesting ideas and sounds and otherwise pull off some insane feats of guitar. What’s the story with that project?

David – I end up having a lot of ideas that might not 100% work in Microwaves. Also, with the pandemic, it’s been pretty easy to find the time to work on solo stuff.

The other thing, and this is not a knock, is that it typically takes a while to get Microwaves material finished. We end up being super meticulous. I am more relaxed on my own stuff. It’s all instrumental, too, so I don’t have to worry about singing.

Jason – The attention to detail is totally obvious in Microwaves. I love your band! How did you wind up getting Via Weightlessness put out by ThreeOneG? Did you solicit them, or was it the other way around?

David – We know a few other folks who have had records on the label and, I think, someone suggested to John that he ask them. He did, and luckily Justin said yes.

There was originally some other plan to put the record out, and I can’t even remember the details, but it fell through, but I think it worked out well.

Jason – For sure! It’s an amazing piece of work.

In addition to playing guitar, I’ve also come to learn that you build circuits under the Phosphene Audio name. What got you into that?

David – I have always had some kind of electronics related job. After college, I ended up doing concert sound, and later installation work for a place that also had a music store.

I got to know, and learned a lot from, the guy who did all the amp and keyboard repairs. I started building pedals and also my own amps. It’s basically a hobby. I don’t sell that many pedals.

Jason – At one point you had some sort of noise/tone generator that I was totally GASing over! Ha! Did you build the amp you use in Microwaves? It sounds killer.

David – Yes, the Microwaves amp is my work. It’s Marshall based, but I’m not aware of anyone else doing it exactly the way I did. It’s like an old 4 hole non master volume 100 watt head, but with a master volume and the two inputs jumped together internally and run on a dual pot. There are also some other tone and gain changes in it. It has a little less gain than a JCM800 2203, but more than your typical non master volume model.

Jason – Well, it’s a rather awesome sounding amp. You sounded great at Buzzbin, but when I saw you again at Westside Bowl it was even more potent!

David – Ah, thanks.

Jason – As an aside, I wish someone made a pedal that could capture the note you are playing at the time you engage the circuit, but then put a rotary wheel or some other foot controller on it attached to an oscillator or something – like an EHX Freeze meets a Minimoog. That would be rad to ring out on a note, engage the pedal, and then start pitch shifting and oscillating that with subtle movements of the foot controller. Like the self oscillating parts of the Earthbound Audio BEAST pedal, but keyed to an input frequency… Wild! Woah, sorry for geeking out there. (EDIT – check the comments, of course someone makes something sort of like this)

David – I’m surprised EHX hasn’t done it.

Jason – You mentioned that the stay at home orders helped facilitate your solo works, how has it impacted the band? Were you guys trying to get together at all, or has it been “lights out” for a year?

David – We haven’t been in the same room for a year. Once we have our shots, we will be back at it. I work around a ton of folks and am concerned I might infect the band, but I have somehow managed to not catch it, so far

Jason – I’m happy to hear that (you’ve not been afflicted), and we have had similar concerns – one of our guys handles building maintenance for a group home with high turnover of residents. It’s been weird.

Changing gears, I know you’ve toured the band all over the country. What’s been some of your favorite places to play? Come across any amazing bands that you feel more folks should know about?

David – Not a specific venue, but one of our favorite places to play is Providence, RI. It’s probably the place we have played the most, other than at home or maybe NYC. We’ve played bars and DIY spaces there and it’s almost always great. We know a lot of folks in weird bands there and people seem to “get” us there, probably even more than at home.

The last time we were there, we even made a live record, though we hadn’t planned on it. The sound guy recorded us and sent us the files. We were surprised how good it sounded, so we put it out.

The one specific venue out of everywhere we’ve been that sticks with me was Death By Audio. It was definitely the best place in NYC when it existed.

There have been a ton of great bands we’ve run into.

Dan St Jacques’ new band The Hammer Party, is great, very much unmistakably from Providence. John did the layout for their record.

A band that flew a little under the radar before calling it a day was Cellular Chaos. They were always good, though I enjoyed the line ups with Marc Edwards drumming the best. They always went all out and had strong songs.

We played with a band in Richmond called The Bermuda Triangles that I thought were fantastic, just really weird and atypical sounding, involving percussion, sax and keyboards.

Jason – I’ve only been to Providence once, for what amounted to a long weekend. I did see two shows at Lupo’s while I was there, though. It was cool.

I’m not familiar with any of the bands you listed, so I’ve got some homework to do. Thanks!

Any advice for any kids thinking of getting into playing in bands?

David – Try to sound like yourself, as opposed to a clone of someone else.

Jason – Go tell it on the mountain! Of course, it’s easier said than done, kids.

Anything else you would like to plug or promote?

David – Nothing new at the moment.

Jason – Well, I’ll plug for ya! Be sure to check out Microwaves on Bandcamp – both their direct page and the ThreeOneG page. Also, explore David’s solo works on Bandcamp (all links above in the intro). If you’re into effects and weird circuits… check out Phosphene Audio on Reverb, etc.

David, thanks for your time today! Best of luck to you, and stay safe out there!

David – Thanks, dude

BLEACHMOUTH POSTSCRIPT

My friend Larry (Hatchet Job, Don Austin, Persistent Aggressor) recently started a new podcast to keep him creatively engaged while this pandemic continues to destroy bands and venues and livelihoods the world over. As such, Bleachmouth Post Script was born, and is now available on most of your favorite podcast sources.

Back in December, Larry approached me about doing an interview for the new show. He knew I was easy to talk to and had time on my hands, so we got together a few times, late at night, via Zoom to chat. The first session we did had to be scrapped because of audio quality. The second session was plagued with internet connectivity issues. The third time was, as they say, “the charm” and we finally were able to get it done. I had a ton of fun hanging out with Larry and I wish the final session touched on some of the same tangents we covered in the nixed sessions, but that’s life. I’m sure me recounting how I met Larry was prime time viewing for nobody except me, so it’s all good.

In this chat, we covered five albums that inspired me in my evolution as a musician, fan, and listener. We cover Clutch, Neurosis, Keelhaul, Lozenge, and Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots, plus endless asides touching on bands like Dead And Gone, Shallow North Dakota, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Nasum, Naked City, Deadguy, and more. It was fun for me, and maybe could be fun for you as well. Please check it out at the link below (or wherever you get your podcasts) and be sure to wade into the other episodes as well. Larry has spoken with a great cross section of humans and I’ve enjoyed all of the episodes, so far.

http://bleachmouth.mkultrazine.com/podcast/ep_1-jason-luchka/

13 MINUTES WITH SUPERCORRUPTER

This past Sunday, all five of us got together in the same room for the first time since February 29, 2020. What was the occasion? Glad you asked! We were invited to be guests on Paul Goon LTD‘s web interview series, 13 MINUTES! I guess Paul stumbled upon us thanks to Instagram (woah, social media actually helped us for once?!), and wanted us on. Radical.

It’s was a really fun time briefly hanging out with Paul and Drew the soundguy, getting asked questions like a real gosh-darn band. You can watch it on IG, Facebook, and also YouTube. It’s just under a half hour long, so it’s a quick listen and just might get you through this wonderful Tuesday in March.

After hanging with the 13 MINUTES crew, we went down the road to spend some time and money at our favorite place in Youngstown, WESTSIDE BOWL. The pizza was amazing and it was cool to spend time together as buds again. We can’t wait to be back out on the stages, playing rock and roll music for the good people. Hope to see you all sooner than later…. XOXO.

INTERVIEW: GARRETT LOCONTI (PISTIL, BEFORE THE EYEWALL, ETC.)

I first met Garrett LoConti back in 2009 or so. At the time, I was looking to extend my bass rig in DeathCrawl to include a 2×15 alongside my 8×10. Garrett had posted an Ampeg V6B 2×15 for sale on Craigslist, and I made the trip down to his house to pick it up. I can vividly recall the literal wall of amps and cabs in his dining room! It’s been an excellent cab for me and DeathCrawl – last used almost a year ago on stage at the Cleveland House of Blues. Who knows when it will ever get to wail again? Anyhow, we kept in touch since then and shared a few stages as well, and today Garrett was keen to sit for an interview. I thank him for his time! Be sure to check out his current band, Pistil!

Garrett-LoConti

Photo by Tristan Whitney Weary

Jason – When I first met you, you were playing in Before The Eyewall, and now you’re playing guitar in Pistil. What lead you to take up playing and how did you get started playing in bands?

Garrett – Been playing since I was 12. After a divorce, my mom brought me from California to Circleville, Ohio, and I felt pretty resentful. Spent years wood-shedding in my basement room, trying to work out my frustrations of being transplanted into a rural community with nothing but German-American farmers around me… started playing in bands in 1994.

Jason – Before the Eyewall had a pretty good run, in that you released a full length and toured extensively – when did that start and how did it initially come together?

Garrett – We were active from 2008-2014 Aaron and I were in multiple bands before BTE. Namely The Salt March, The Sleepwell Initiative and an iteration of Kenoma.

Jason – So, how did Pistil come about?

Garrett – Aaron had left Ohio to pursue other goals in Portland, Oregon and Kevin Masters’ band Traitors Return to Earth had gone on hiatus. I had been working on solo material when Kevin asked me to stop by and check out what he and John Violet had been working on.

Initially I thought the ideas were interesting and I thought about playing bass and having Kevin play keyboards. We soon realized that we were both guitarists at heart and fell back into our old roles with Kevin still accenting and fulfilling a dual role on keys.

…Not before we had written a ton of Genesis/King Crimson/Soft Machine intros and vignettes.

Jason – Ha! That’s how it always goes! So far, Pistil has released an EP and a new single, right? Anything else?

Garrett – Yeah, the three song EP was release in April of last year. Our release party was a blast with our friends Into the Briar Patch, Pale Grey Lore, and we brought Frayle down from Cleveland.

This is our first new release this year.

Working on another group of songs presently.

Jason – What’s the goal for Pistil? Are you looking to tour, or is this more a “weekend warrior,” “keep-it-fun” kind of project?

Garrett – Pistil is really just an experiment between artists that don’t necessarily come from the same backgrounds. Alex plays in multiple bands in Columbus and is much more active in touring with his other band, Souther. We keep it pretty regional, but with all of the friends and contacts we have made in past projects… I would love to get out of town a little and show what we’ve got.

We do have commitments and families here, though, so it is difficult to give it the ol’ twenty-something try!

Jason – Tell me about it! Is anyone else in the band as big a gear hound as you?

Garrett – I will say that Kevin and I share the obsession with gear but with Pistil, it was really just about moving away from what we “knew” and finding complimentary voices. If you had told me in 2014 that I would be using a mini humbucker equipped guitar with a Hiwatt or Marshall Superlead?!? I would have said you were crazy. We left the Sunn and Orange gear for our other more stage obliterating projects. This just makes room in the mix for everyone to play with.

Jason – That new song sounds so lush and powerful! How easily did that recording go?

Garrett – For recording Emerald Echoes, we went with Joe Viers again at Sonic Lounge. The man is both a genius and a saint… he is by far the easiest engineer we have ever worked with, and his patience is monk like… plus, it’s not too often that you can say you recorded on the same mixing board that David Gilmour used…

Jason – Nice! Sonic Lounge is in Columbus, right? Pretty cool that board made its way there!

Garrett – Grove City to be exact. But yeah, it’s provenance is kind of an incredible story on its own.

It’s a piece of history and a labor of love for him and his staff. And he has the vase full of electrolytic capacitors to prove it.

Jason – Hahaha! What’s the writing process for a Pistil?

Garrett – It’s been honed from trial and error. Normally someone will bring in an idea or phrase and we will just instinctively try and compliment it. There are definitely no “brainchild’s” in this group. Things are more of less hashed out in the room with lots of input from the group.

Jason – Does it seem to come together in a hurry, or is it a grind… or maybe somewhere in between?

Garrett – We have a silly process of coming up with the most ridiculous working titles possible, even for the shortest of riffs, and then either focusing on them or have breakout sessions over longer periods of time to work them out. Emerald Echoes was definitely a long slog to come up with the different motifs and ultimately fit the composition to the concept of the song. It was one of our first few concoctions as a band and something were are really proud of.

Jason – You should be, it’s a really cool tune!

How has COVID19 impacted you as a band? as it been as catastrophically disruptive for you as it has for us?

Garrett – I think we are all in a relatively good place. We have a business owner in the group who has had every manner of difficulty taking care of his employees. Furloughs and layoffs… I feel privileged to be able to continue my work from home, but I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the group has shifted their dedication to the project to taking care of their families now.

We are lucky that we had this finished song to release, or else our entire 2020 would have been shot.

Jason – Yeah – we started making a record in late January and it was completely stalled out. It’s just sitting there, half recorded, waiting for a bit of normalcy to let us finish it

So, what’s next for Pistil (you know… once the world stops ending)?

Garrett – Well, we are still expanding our sound and working on getting a full length together. We work at our own pace but I wouldn’t rule out a ton of output in 2021. These are some of the most dedicated folks that I have worked with, and it has been such a pleasure to work with such talent. We really fill in the gaps of each others creativity and capacity. It’s so much easier to loosen the grip of control when you know how dedicated everyone in the group is.

Jason – Totally! What are some other bands you’ve come across that you feel more folks need to be aware of?

Garrett – There are so many… Columbus has a lot of talent. If you want some good old-fashion, “missing chromosome aggression” you need to get hip to UnChipped. If you’re looking for boozy cool riff rock, then our friends in Bourbon Train will get you covered along with Alex’s other band Souther. The singer and guitarist, Carly is one of the best guitarists in Columbus. Such a good feel and pocket player. Definitely on the more mellow scale of my listening habits.

Jason – Nice! We played Ohio Doomed and Stoned 2019 with Bourbon Train and I was into their set, for sure! I’ll have to seek out UnChipped and Souther, for sure.

What’s a piece of advice you’d share with a younger person looking to get into playing in bands?

Garrett – Well, I’m not a rock and roll philosopher, but I guess just do it right and for the right reasons. I have made friends from all over the world now. I have met people in every walk of life, seen so many places and so much good art. The world is so big and you just need to get out into it and let people know who you are. Find out what success means to you on the way.

Jason – That’s a great perspective to share!

Is there anything else you’d like to plug?

Garrett – Regarding Emerald Echoes, I just want to make sure that Tristan Whitney Weary is mentioned for supplying the great photography, John Violet for the layout and design work, Joe and Sonic Lounge for the recording along with Alex for endlessly tracking guitars and keyboards.

Jason – Tristan takes some excellent photos and that image for Emerald Echoes is pretty righteous!

Thanks for your time today, Garrett!

Garrett – Dude, thank you! It’s been fun. Can’t wait to get back out to your neck of the woods!

INTERVIEW: JOHN PANZA (HIRAM-MAXIM, ARMS & ARMOUR, TERRYCLOTH MOTHER, THE PANZA FOUNDATION, ETC.)

Today, I was lucky enough to get to chat with John Panza. I met John at last year’s Earthquaker Day celebration. We were both sponsors of the event and I was fortunate enough to be his neighbor under the sponsor’s tent. It was a lot of fun talking with him then, and just as much fun today. I want to thank John for his time today, and ask his forgiveness for my amateur ways. Be sure to check out his bands, Hiram-Maxim, Arms & Armour, and Terrycloth Mother, along with The Panza Foundation!

John-Panza

Jason – I met you last year at Earthquaker Day, where we wound up being neighbors in the sponsor tent. In chatting with you that fine August day, I learned that you were a drummer in Hiram-Maxim and Arms & Armor, an effects enthusiast, and an tremendous supporter of the musical arts by way of your foundation, The Panza Foundation. That’s a lot to unpack, so maybe the first question to come to mind would be what lead you to playing music?

John – I started playing drums when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until graduate school that I started playing in bands. …So that was my early 20s. Playing in bands gave me a chance to collaborate with others. Since drums are kind of a lonely instrument, that collaboration was necessary. In time it grew into a few very close relationships, like with Lauren Voss (who I played with in Chief Bromide then Blaka Watra and now Arms & Armour) and then my work with the Lottery League that eventually led to Hiram-Maxim and most recently Terrycloth Mother. It’s been 25 years of learning how to play well with others.

Jason – “Learning how to play well with others” sounds like a great title for a memoir! Ha! Was music a part of your household growing up?

John – My father played some drums as a kid, but he never really developed his skills there. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a bluegrass musician back in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He died in 1945. So there was certainly musical influences in the family, but I am the only person in my family to pursue music seriously.

That said, my parents were completely supportive of my drumming from day one. Noise was good.

Jason – How would you describe that first graduate school band?

John – That band was called Simoom. We ran from 1996 until 2001 or so. It was a three-piece that sometimes added a fourth member for fun. It was the mid 1990s, so the influences on it ranged from post-punk to noise rock to psychedelic. I think the best way of describing the music was loud and eclectic. I don’t think we were particularly good, but the folks at the Grog Shop and Euclid Tavern gave us lots of opportunities to open for nationals. I learned a lot from being in Simoom.

Jason – Nice! That’s a pretty serious commitment to your first band! I figured you’d say it was some cover band that did parties or something!

Did you do any touring, or were you content to play locally?

John – We just played locally between Cleveland and Kent. Near the end of Simoom’s run I was invited to join HILO, which was signed to Cleveland’s Cambodia Records, home of Craw, Keelhaul, and others. I took advantage of some downtime in Simoom and joined HILO. That was the beginning of a more serious commitment to playing music, especially recording. HILO disbanded a little while later, but I was lucky enough to maintain friendships with all of the members. I also eventually found my way to Chief Bromide, which ended up being the beginning of my relationship with Lauren. Meanwhile Johnathan Swafford from HILO eventually moved to NYC and formed Aqualamb Records, the label that Hiram-Maxim is on.

Jason – Unfortunately, I missed out on Simoom, HILO, and Chief Bromide. Speaking of Hiram-Maxim (who totally rules, if you haven’t listened to them, by-the-way), you mentioned that came out of a Lottery League assignment. The same, I believe, is true of Terrycloth Mother. How did you come to get involved with Lottery League?

John – I joined Chief Bromide the year after the first Lottery League. I didn’t participate in that first season. But to get into the second season, you had to have a recommendation. I got that from one of my Chief Bromide band mates. So I joined the second season, had a great time, and decided that I’d participate in the league from there on out. My first season I was in Melted Face Constitutional with Dave Cintron, Nick Traenkner, Jason Robinson, and Paul Bartholet. The next season was when Hiram-Maxim formed. Lisa, Dave, Fred, and I originally called the project Kill It With Fire, so that was Hiram-Maxim before it was Hiram-Maxim. My third season I was in Can’t. Won’t. Mustn’t. with Tommy Shaffner, Nick Wolff, and Joshua Nelson. This most recent season was when Terrycloth Mother formed with James Pequignot, Tebbs Karney, and Drew Maziasz. By the third time I participated, I had also become a sponsor of the league. Now my non-profit Panza Foundation is the financial agent for the league. I guess I went from knowing nothing about it to knowing a whole hell of a lot.

Jason – That’s awesome! I love how many heavy hitters you’ve been able to collaborate with as well – such a wide spectrum of creative folks! I often dreamed of getting an invite to Lottery League, as I’ve seen some friends do some really cool stuff as part of it. I like the concept of throwing people in a pressure cooker and seeing what happens, musically. It’s a brilliant idea.

…I was going to get to it in a moment, but can you describe the Panza Foundation to someone who is totally oblivious to what it does?

John – Here is my Panza Foundation elevator speech: Panza Foundation is a 501c3 family foundation based out of Cleveland. We provide monetary grants to underground, independent bands from Northern Ohio who are pursuing musical careers. To this end, our board chooses four bands per year and provide grants for purchase of everything from gear to recording time to touring essentials to representation to legal assistance. Whatever they need. We are in year six and have thus far sponsored twenty-three bands, a couple indie venues, and the Lottery League.

Jason – It’s such an amazing platform, double amazing to me in that you seek out the beneficiaries, instead of the typical “applicants approach” many other grant-based organizations seem to favor. When you are picking bands, what leads you to consider someone?

John – Yeah we raise funds from private donors and my wife and I contribute each year as well. As for our selection process, the board begins each year with a list of 15-20 bands we have seen and feel could be good choices. We then spend most of the year seeing those projects perform, learning about them from local promoters and club owners, interviewing previously sponsored bands who know the projects, etc. In the end we whittle the list down to six to eight and then vote. That gives us our four bands. We look for bands that play well, play well with others, and desire to play around the country.

Jason – In today’s climate where artists can have some pretty terrible skeletons in their closets, are you at all worried about rewarding someone that turns out to be … let’s just say, a “not-so-good-person?”

John – We do our research. Luckily today it’s pretty easy to learn all you need to know about folks before you sponsor them.

Jason – Excellent!

Do you foresee any major fallout to the Foundation for 2021 as a result of COVID19’s impact on everything this year?

John – The biggest disappointment this year has been two of our four current bands lost rather lengthy tours because of Covid. From our perspective, we are keeping on keeping on. Our fundraising numbers are still strong and the only weird thing might be that we have to do an online benefit this fall instead of a live concert like we usually do. But three of our four bands have already spent their grants and Lottery League is moving along with plans to do a 2021 season.

Jason – That’s great to hear!

Going back to something you mentioned earlier, I was just starting to go to shows around 1995 and had no idea places like the Euclid Tavern or the Grog Shop existed until a couple of years later (being a Portage County fella). I look back at all the shows I missed at those venues from bands I love to this day. Shows from bands like Hammerhead, Barkmarket, Cop Shoot Cop, etc. What was that scene like? Secondly, do you think there is a current scene in NEO that folks need to know about, so they don’t have to look back in regret (as I do when I look back on my teens)?

John – I started going to shows in the late 1980s and spent the better part of the 90s frequenting the Euclid Tavern, Grog Shop, Peabody’s, and other places. I was lucky enough to see some amazing shows and eventually open more than a few. For a kid from the west side, I spent an inordinately large amount of time on the east side of town. When I started playing out regularly, I was able to develop relationships both with locals and nationals that resulted in even more opportunities. As for a current local scene, it’s different these days since the market has spread further west and many of the musical types live in Lakewood instead of on the east side like in the 90s. My own take is that Cleveland has several mini-scenes that are well-supported and continues to own a general rejection of genre as the determining factor in bill assemblage. That is, everyone generally likes everyone else’s bands…or at least respects the efforts. The clubs and bars equally support diverse lineups. It’s a good scene.

Jason – I guess the main takeaway, is that folks still need to keep an ear to the street to seek out the good stuff, because even with social media, it’s not always easy to know what’s happening and where. Follow your favorite venues online and try to keep up!

I know we’re almost out of time, but I wanted to ask you about your fascination with the art of making sound – particularly with regards to how you got into effects and how they can impact percussion. It’s not something you see often, for someone to post a picture of a pedal board that they are running their kit through!

John – Being a drummer can be a lonely thing. So since collaboration is the heart of drumming, over time if you pay attention you can learn a lot from guitarists and bassists and synth players and such. Add to that lots and lots of time in the studio, and being a drummer can be more than just hitting acoustic drums. In my case, I took an interest in effects pedals and signal paths as they can be applied to drums. Yes, I can do drum programming and do so in Arms & Armour. But to work on developing pedal boards that can be applied to acoustic drums in a live setting using contact mics and other tools has been a really fun. The past five years, I’ve taken quite a deep dive into the concept. When this stupid Covid thing diminishes I look forward to testing out a few boards in a live setting.

Jason – I just got my first pair of contact mics! I can’t wait to keep experimenting with them. Everyone should have at least one!

John – There are some great effect pedal companies out there making pedals that play very well with drums.

Jason – Since I’ve already ran over, I’d like to open this up for you to promote anything you feel more folks should be aware of.

John – Folks interested in learning about Panza Foundation should check out www.panzafoundation.org. You can learn about our current and previous bands and all that we’re up to, including our recent assistance on the new Akron Music Awards. Search out the Lottery League via Google. It’s such a wild and wonderful regional art project. As for my own projects, check them out! Hiram-Maxim, Arms & Armour, and Terrycloth Mother.

Jason – Thank you so much for your time today, John!

John – Thanks!

INTERVIEW: JON REIDER (COINMONSTER, THE TRIGGERS, ETC.)

I met Jon many years ago at a Coinmonster show, probably in Akron. Keith had recorded one of their shows (I think it was live at Ron’s Crossroads with Dolly Trauma?) to Sony Minidisc and we gave him a CD-R copy of it the next time we saw them. After later connecting on Facespace, I made a random posting one day saying that we needed someone to sing on what would become The Gingerdead Men’s final EP – Paper Leviathan. I mentioned we were looking for something like a cross between Burton Cummings (Guess Who) and some other artists I’ve forgotten to the sands of time. Jon almost immediately responded that he was on board. I sent him demo recordings and sheets of lyrics and he twice made the pilgrimage to Cleveland from New Castle, PA to knock it out of the park. We were floored that someone as accomplished as Jon would work with nobodies like us, and even the title is an homage to his hugely influential band (get it… Paper (Coin) Leviathan (Monster)?). Today, Jon was gracious enough to sit for a lunch-time interview. He’s a busy guy, and I thank him for taking the time! Of course, I remembered a ton of questions I had for Jon after our time was up, but that’s show biz!

img_5736

Jason – I was first introduced to you and your guitar playing via the band Coinmonster. I understand that in recent years, you’ve also played shows with a band called The Triggers. Have there been any other bands of note that you’ve played in?

Jon – I’ve done a few tribute shows in Pittsburgh over the last few years with various members of a band called Ritual Space Travel Agency. Coinmonster used to play with them tons back in the day and they’re super dudes and musicians. We did a System of a Down show and a Steely Dan set a few years back. I was asked to sit in with them for a reunion show that was unfortunately cancelled with all this virus nonsense floating around.

Jason – Boo! …but I remember seeing RSTA back in the day, maybe at the Nyabinghi?  It’s great to hear they are still at it in some regard. Was Coinmonster your first “real band?”

Jon – “Real” in the sense of writing our own stuff, absolutely. I toiled around in cover bands with all the dudes from CM well before we put it all together. Once we started CM, we had a goal in mind to write our own stuff, music that was inspired by the wide array of influences we all had

Jason – The first time I saw CM play, I was dumbfounded by your playing technique. Did you learn to play guitar that way, or was that an evolution to get the sounds you were after?

Jon – Well first off, thanks! I learned a more standard approach initially, but the no-pick , tapping stuff just sort of came from trying to emulate stuff on guitar that I was hearing in my head from other instruments like horns and keys, etc. I dropped my pick frequently, so I just said to hell with it. I got some flack for it from some players because it definitely limits you, but I like how it sounds, it sounds like me. 🙂

My style has changed drastically over the last 10 years, more finger-pickish.

Jason – You have an incredible sound! When you say “finger picking,” do you mean in a country/bluegrass context, or more of a deep dive into weird progressive rock?

Jon – More proggy, kind of fusion-ey. I’m a huge fan of players like Allan Holdsworth and Jimmy Herring and I’m mingling those two in my own sloppy way. 🙂

Jason – I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that CM was your first “real” band. The compositions are so detailed and dynamic. what was the writing process like for that band? Did it come easy, or was in a huge ordeal to craft each song?

Jon – Writing came very easy! I was always surrounded by great players, first with John Troutman, and now with Rick Stoner on bass, then David Galazia who can play anything I come up with; it’s like being a kid in a candy store. Early on, I came up with many of the base riffs and then everyone piled on until it morphed into something we dug. Towards the later years, we definitely refined that process. We write really quickly, it’s the “having time” piece that is hard right now

Jason – You aren’t kidding about having the time! I remember seeing David reaching over and playing notes on the bass guitar with his drum stick, or catching a cymbal with his foot.. meanwhile Rick was playing bass with one hand and synth with the other… all while you were marching in place, destroying the guitar AND singing on the other side of the stage. You guys were easily one of the most engaging bands I ever had the privilege to see play!

I was just revisiting Tilton Johnson last week and was floored at how fresh and vibrant it still sounds today. Then I went back further to The Schematic and Universal Solvent and found the same to be true. The music itself is brilliant, but the lyrics are also pretty awesome. Who wrote the lyrics and what helped define the stories that were told?

Jon – Thanks again, I appreciate it! I write the majority of the lyrics, but the inspiration for some of the phrases and terminology comes from David. He might not know it, but it does. 🙂 The stories are usually based on real events and emotions, but some are just complete science-fiction.

Jason – I love it! What was the the inspiration behind a song like Bully, or Damn The Sunset, for example?

Jon – Bully is more fictional, serial killer type stuff. I always had a fascination with that sort of thing. “Investigation Discovery” is on my TV 24 hours a day much to my wife’s dismay…

Damn the Sunset was more or less a song about being able to clear your head just by taking a deep breath and chilling out. People will be surprised to hear that because I seldom chill out. 🙂

Jason – We watch ID non-stop too! Ahahaha! Were lyrics as easy to write as the material?

Jon – No – the lyrics are always way harder for me. I honestly haven’t written lyrics in well over a decade. It was easier when I was younger. Coming up with topics is more of a challenge now, I don’t know why. Riffs, I got a million of ’em!

Jason – On that topic, are you still writing new material?

Jon – I’m always writing stuff, but I don’t have a specific musical destination for it. When coinmonster does get a few moments to play, we write stuff in a few hours that could be ready to go quickly. It happened last time we got together – we came up with a neat idea. I filmed it and put it on Facebook and we got a ton of great response from it, then never rehearsed again. 🙂 We’re the “just like riding a bike band” though, we click within minutes , even if it’s been years.

Jason – That’s awesome and once again goes to show the talent and passion of everyone involved!

Jon – Secretly I’ve been trying to plan a solo instrumental record, different drummers for different songs, different players, etc. That is still in my head , but I do have a bunch of people in mind. 😉

Jason – Woah – that sounds like it would be killer! On that note, you seem really open to collaboration (you worked with us, for crying out loud!). What would be a dream collab for you?

Jon – Oh, I’m very open for collaboration! I play stuff all day long and think “man, something needs to happen with this riff or this melody” or whatever. I’d love the idea of being a studio musician, just playing on friends stuff, not like sitting down and reading super complex charts hahaha. I want to still be able to play like me! 🙂

As far as dream collaborations go, there’s a bunch of drummers I’d like to do something with… Jon Vinson (Axioma, Persistent Aggressor, SixKillsNine, etc.), Will Scharf (Keelhaul, Craw, etc.) , and Troy from RSTA. I’ve been spoiled to have players like David and Rick though, so my dream collabs are sometimes just a phone call and a few beers away. 😉

Jason – Ha! I’d love to hear anything you come up with involving any of those guys! Those are some beast players! Your sense of melody and rock/heaviness is so unique and the world definitely needs more!

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into playing music?

Jon – Yes! Play drums! The world needs drummers!!

Kidding – basically get in it to have fun first. If you’re good, or you get in with a good group of people, the rest will come. There’s not a lot of money to be made, so you HAVE to love it.

Jason – Great advice on both fronts!

Anyone out there playing that you feel more folks need to be aware of?

Jon – Nope – it would just take attention away from ME. Kidding – I mention this guy’s name a bunch on my FB page, but Jimmy Herring is one of the most “complete” guitar players out there right now IMO. Check him out if you don’t know him.

Jason – I will! Final question – where can people go to listen to Coinmonster? I’ve found some stuff on YouTube, but that’s it. It’s really too good to be unknown to younger kids that missed it the first time around.

Jon – I get asked all the time about our stuff being on iTunes and Amazon Prime, I really don’t know how it got there, and I surely don’t get paid for it, but outside of YouTube, those are the only options ( for now ).

Jason – Throw it all on Bandcamp! 😀 Thank you so much for your time today, Jon!

Jon – That’s not a bad idea, I will definitely look into it! …And thank you!!