Arts

gil scott heron

On the majesty of a rich, genuinely interesting voice: Gil Scott-Heron and Tom Waits

Though DJs the world over (of which I am one, thank you WKNH Keene, NH) know the importance of a voice that’s as distinct as a face, thanks to “I Prefer Their Old Stuff,” I’ve come to remember and appreciate the greatness that is Gil Scott-Heron and his newest, I’m New Here. Tom WaitsOrphans, with its Bukowski-penned “Nirvana” is the other end of this.

I love the gravelly, low, smoker/ diseased-node vocal stylings of Mr.s  Scott-Heron and Waits. I love Bukowski, too, but have always felt that Waits was the best reader of his poems (interestingly, much moreso than Bukowski himself).

I’m New Here is, like Orphans, full of different types of works: some spoken word, some songs, some just snippets of somehow-recorded conversations, much like, say, Monk and Coltrane’s “Live at the Five Spot” (allegedly surreptitiously recorded by Coltrane’s wife and muse Naima). It’s in these unaware-we’re-being-recorded talks that sheer truth, vitality, seems to emerge:

Ever dreamt about being a fly on the wall when Famous People talked? This is pretty much as close to that as you’re gonna get. (Barring some supernatural powers on your part, I mean.)

I’m New Here is bookended by two parts of Scott-Heron’s poem “On Coming From a Broken Home,” in itself very worth putting on repeat.

Track two, “Me and the Devil” a track with a distinct Robert Johnson debt/influence, is still its own creature, and doesn’t sound (miraculously) contrived at all. If Gil can’t utterly identify with Faust, he can fake it like no one I’ve ever heard.

“Being Blessed” is 12 seconds, but is just wonderful to hear, somehow reassuring.

It reminds me We Have No Leaders now.

“New York is Killing Me” is another tune that will lodge itself in your ears, as are “Running” (“Because if I knew where ‘cover’ was, I would stay there and never have to run for it.”) and “The Crutch,” an eloquent diatribe about junkies, and a particularly great series of sounds that I identify with.

And Mr. Waits…?

At 2:13, “Nirvana” is a brief reminder of the sheer beckoning vitality of Waits’ voice: to sound that beaten, that weathered, he must have Something of Importance to say.

It’s a reminder, as is Scott-Heron, of the soothsayer, the shaman, the magician, the village elder, even of the jester– in that its very sonic properties compel you to listen. It’s a welcome artifact –an atavism– of generations long past.

The fact that it’s just Waits reading one of “Hank”‘s poems (itself about a brief, though mystical, layover on a bus trip), I think, further testifies to its importance. It’s not really about much at all– and yet, maybe only because of the voice– it seems crucial.

The cover over there seems particularly well-chosen: Waits surrounded by seeming ghosts, all, to judge by their body language (if that even applies post-mortem), eager to say something.

Isn’t that what Art is: eagerness, necessity, to Say Something?

Paraphrasing my dead mother: “I could listen to Tom Waits read the phone book.”

In Solitude, cover (high-res)

Cherrypicker’s Gazette, Tip of the Day: In Solitude, The World. The Flesh. The Devil

Not sure what the title means. They’re allegedly Quite Satantic, but that’s not important right now.

They’re Mercyful Fate with better production and a singer that’s not so over-the-top (said with love: I saw King Diamond both on the Abigail tour as well as Conspiracy); the most salient point is– they actually write songs. Verse, chorus, hooks– the whole nine.

The riffs are nearly textbook NWOBHM, but you’ll hum them for days. If you have to get only one: “To Her Darkness.” Two: add “Dance of the adversary.” Three: “The World, The Flesh, The Devil.”

Throw up your horns, pull up your denim jacket and BANG IT, brother!

Lfceline

Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Long Nonfiction Novels About Exactly What People Think and Why They Were Boldly Idiotic– and Brilliant. And Inspiring…

As a rule, it’s children, the developmentally-disabled, and the senile that make us uneasy.

See… we can’t readily predict what they might say, at any given moment.

We still give them excuses for this– we laugh it off, we ignore it… but there’s always that lurking fear: “Will they call me out for being fat? Or bald? Or too [insert perceived feature]?”

So then.

What do we call anyone else who might utter this innocently violent vociferation, this verbal flagellation…this… YAWP of clairvoyance– or at least of searing honesty?

Usually– we call them insane.

We call it Tourette’s. We call it schizophrenia. We call it drunk, or codependent.

Sometimes though, and however rarely (even simultaneously)– we call it writing. We call it art, we call it poetry, and in Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s case… “novels.”

Sure, he went a little mad at the end there (we all go a little mad sometimes, after all– though it’s only the best of us that produces novels, i.e., reproducible wisdom, gleaned from the experience), but then again,how could you not go mad, way down there at the end of a lifetime of writing down everything as you actually saw it–

and not, as so many others have, as how you SHOULD have seen it.

Like Céline, the laughing madman, one simultaneously scary (“Why is he laughing like that? Why can’t I understand it too?”)as well as intriguing (“What in the world is so funny that he keeps laughing at it? Do I truly want to understand that kind of hilarity?”).

Moreover, that Céline himself was a doctor makes his words even more darkly hilarious: we often naturally assume people as educated as doctors would be above thinking things like… I dunno… like we stink like we roll in shit.

It is only upon fully grasping this — that the truly wealthy, smart, powerful or famous are pretty much as fucked up as we are, and so there is nothing to aspire to — that one really begins to understand the truly peaceful (and yet truly horrifying) reality that Céline saw and described in Journey To The End of the Night and Death on Credit (aka Death On the Installment Plan).

Céline gets shit, and sometimes applause, for being anti-human, anti-establishment.

Céline is anti-bullshit. Céline is the guy at the Thanksgiving dinner table, airing everyone’s secrets that everyone at the table knew already. Everyone embarrassed, but not because they didn’t know, but because everything is out there and we’ll have to talk about it or work really hard trying to change the subject….

You know you get it. Make the concession to early-20th century French, and be rewarded as Céline imparts knowledge, however naive and obliquely….

Glean from your experience, is what I’m sayin.

scott hull

Photo of the Moment: Scott Hull, Pig Destroyer

Feel free to mock me, but I collect internet photos of both jazz and metal musicians– photos that make the 14-year-old in me go “Coooooooool….”

I’ve got literally hundreds of either type of musician, but since I’ve been listening to a lot of Pig Destroyer lately, and I’m pretty sure this photo is responsible, I thought I’d share it with you: behold Scott Hull with his 7-string, no position-markers natural wood finish Jackson strat:

Eric Dolphy At The Five Spot Vol.1

Eric Dolphy At the five-spot: Vol.s 1, 2 (and Memorial Album?)

Since these are from the Vault: Let’s Get To It!

“Bee Vamp,” sounds like the theme to The Price is Right– very little structure over that two chord vamp, both the first and the alternate take vibe like long-time friends with a lot of time, laid out, playing their tunes together, enjoying the no pressure. Late late night jazz.

“Fire Waltz” my favorite, a drunkenly-swaggering riff, seemingly inspired, cooked up at the last moment, so Eric, Booker, Mal, Richard and Eddie can let it hang out.

“The Prophet,” (perhaps appropriately) swaggers even more drunkenly (as the evening wears on…?) and is somewhat more maudlin yet happy… dig that bass clarinet– at 4:45 the boldy jagged lines that stop and start on a dime, on a yen, on a picayune…

Buy it or listen….

Live at the Five Spot II– opens with “Aggression,” a 17 minute jam– a scattered, frantic hard-bop-ish workout… unremarkable for Dolphy but worth hearing for anyone else…. “Like Someone In Love” starts with nervous chit chat, piano, then flute and trumpet and bass… a somber, almost respectful opening for a few minutes, tentative,  almost like it’s feeling out an audience at a wake… “are they grave mourners or gay ones…?”… at 2:45 drums and piano back in, clearing away space for the flute (and Dolphy’s sharp inbreaths) to center-stage it for a second– then errbody comes in.

It’s now almost jaunty, sad but with an optimism –bittersweet?– maybe soursweet… by 10:00 it trots, softly with confidence…

“Number Eight (Potsa Lotsa)” and everything is back to mercurial staff-writer Dolphy and his effluvian licks…. “Booker’s Waltz” bounces like something out of Moulin Rouge… a strutting,  whirling merry-go-’round of a melody….

It’s a gay ol’ time, right up to the end….

[buy]

Memorial Album contains the identical recordings of “Number Eight (potsa lotsa)” and “Booker’s Waltz” that were described above. The former lists as being about a minute longer than the track on Vol. 2, but it’s only crowd noise. If you have Vol. 2, you don’t need this one.

Surtur Rising

Drinking Mead with Amon Amarth’s Surtur Rising

This is… gonzo journalism!

This is… method reviewing!

Come on, Strasberg and Stanislavski, let’s rev up my affective (race?) memory and feel the pillage! (I’m German-American, so surely there’s pillaging memory in there somewhere….)

I, in the spirit of the pillaging Viking hordes (pretty sure that name’s copywritten), have written this entire review of Sweden’s Amon Amarth and their newest, Surtur Rising, while drinking mead.

Mead– the honey-wine every Viking and his mother drank.

You're welcome.

You know how Goddamn hard it is to find mead around here?

The things I do for you….

So: the Mead I actually found,  Oliver’s Camelot Mead, tastes like, well, Honey wine (though apparently I should’ve tried this or this kind).

A lot stronger than beer, less so than wine, it tastes like really light liquid honey with alcohol in it. I can’t stand wine, but this is not bad. Not as good as beer, which I do so enjoy, but not bad at all.

One 5 oz. serving in:

Opener “War of the Gods” hammers in the intro theme with a crushing downbeat with melody that segues into a chorus that you could chant over a fire…. Amon Amarth sound confident and strong, and old Viking ruler –Odin?– who’s seen a lot and knows it back to front…will make you mad mead is so hard to get in comparison to beer;

Former albums have been fairly filler-dense, with a couple or three songs that are so good you forget the rest… I’m curious how this will pan out….

“Töck’s Taunt: Loke’s Treachery Part II” follows their pattern in songwriting: somewhat memorable verse followed by hooky-in-a- somehow-Viking way chorus… not quite as good as the first track, but quite good… we fade out into:

“Destroyer of the Universe”  which thrashes its ways, at 200 bpm, into a rager of a tune– sounding like a cousin to “Twilight of the Thunder God” from their previous work, this time faster and with more solos and riffs….

“Slaves of Fear” a rager, though not to the previous degree, but is nothing near filler and rages and rages and rages….

Two Servings (10 oz.) in: “Live Without Regrets” continues the Viking-themed melody with death metal vocals motif… but does little new with it, Amon Amarth’s riffing in B standard, a fifth below standard tuning… somehow making up for the lack of nuance….

“The Last Stand of Frej” is suitable epic (and yet tragic) in its sonic recounting of the tale of the Norse goddess of majick, war and death… fades out to “For Victory or Death,” which, clichéd title or no, which starts like a combination of Mercyful Fate and Bay Area Thrash….

Forget “Wrath of the Norsemen” overall, though at 2:10 it drops briefly into a nice little dirge/breakdown… “A Beast Am I” brings the fury back at 230 bpm, leaves behind the melody and just fucking rages…. “Doom Over Dead Man,” though I’m not sure what the title means, is perhaps the most emotional (read: bittersweet) track on here– primitive instrument melodies about: conches, horns, shouts, abound… the rallying cry of a race (sadly?) long dead….

Long may they live…!!

And: though you know always what you’re getting….

Bottom Line (15 ozs. in):

It’s their stride.

This is feasting hall music.

This is music you scream with your barbarian friends after you’ve bested Grendel’s mother.

This is war music that manages to avoid the cheese of Manowar (said with love).

Now hoist your Goddamned tankards…!

To Amon Amarth!!! To Mount Doom!!!

May their kingdom resist weather, time and treachery…!

Northless, Clandestine Abuse

Northless, Clandestine Abuse

[Initially micro-reviewed by me here and here.]

So, let’s get right to it:

Crowbar’s older, bigger, dumber brother. (Hanging out with Godflesh.)

Been listening to the vinyl (orange marbled, very nice) for a while now– the most interesting/ thematically-representative part:

At 2:24 of “Clandestine Abuse,” the guitars switch to clean tones (none distorted) over bass; those guitars, intentionally or not, sound brief extended chords over the root notes in the bass (the guitars hit ninths and thirteenths, which, though they sound dissonant from the vibrato with which they’re played, are diatonic (“in chord”) tones)– the effect is an unusual one for metal bands (Atheist, Cynic, or late-period Death excepted) but is very typical of jazz fusion (particularly John Mclaughlin on Miles Davis’ A Tribute to Jack Johnson or Bitches Brew) and some avant-guard jazz like Roscoe Mitchell, Wes Montgomery, Cecil Taylor or even Thelonious Monk’s open chord voicings– resulting here in a dissonant, vaguely bluesey sludge.

The effect on the ear is confusing. The effect on the ear is attractive: it wants to return to the tune to “figure it out” and since it won’t, keeps you going back, and going back.

It’s like meth for your ears.

Miraculously, it comes off as jazzy and sludgy at the same time; they’ve been blended well.

“Clandestine Abuse” was an interesting enough tune that it made me want to learn to play it (hence the analysis above); the true test of a riff: it may be cool to listen to, but is it so cool it makes you want to imitate that sound, to reproduce it?

Also, the ass doesn’t drop out of the song when the guitars lose their distortion (very difficult to do, apparently, because it seemingly never happens on albums); this is the only instance I can think of this being done successfully besides Sloath‘s “Please Maintain.”

AND, it may be the key to a truly unique sound for Northless: yes they can crush, but that’s not in short supply with this type of music: it seems like exploring this tendency (while continuing to avoid that multiple personality switching of jazz-METAL-jazz-METAL that “jazzy” metal bands tend to do) could be their key to a truly unique, identifiable sound.

Did they mean to do it? No idea.

Not sure it matters.

But they drew the circle and this was the beautiful demon that answered, a crushing feel with hints of a distinct personal sound– no mean feat in heavy metal, particularly sludge, which usually sacrifices identity for sheer weight.

It also doesn’t hurt that drummer John Gleisner, like Howl‘s Timmy St. Amour, Intronaut’s Danny Walker or Danzig’s Chuck Biscuits, has a palpable sense of groove: like Centurions Ghost, this is sludge that swings. This swing keeps Clandestine Abuse from bogging down in the plodding that usually makes up doom/sludge drumming. It keeps a track like “Flesh & Ghost” from just being a simple riff played again and again and makes it a jam; it keeps the above “Clandestine Abuse” from being an open-chord, spacey oscillation-fest Godflesh or Nadja tune– and pretty much solves what always slightly bothers me about either band (particularly Nadja): it grounds them. While the riffs phase/flange out, the drummer’s thang compliments the riffs, adds a bright ringing contrast, and makes Northless’ sound wholeNot unlike Pelican’s Larry Herweg, Gleisner plays minimally. It’s plaintive, and mournful, and crushing.

Soul-soothing….

If Clandestine Abuse isn’t on my top 10 list this December, 2011 is going to be one great year for metal.

TONE

The most distinct sounds in sludge/stoner/doom guitar?

So. I’ve played guitar for just about 25 years. I’ve played woodwind instruments for 30. In all my decades of loving metal, and being, I’m proud to say in retrospect, A Bitch of the Riff, I’ve noticed something.

In jazz (land of the woodwinds and brass, not so much the stringed instruments), there’s a huge emphasis on personal sound– that is, how distinct is your sound; how quickly can you be recognized by a note of two of your playing?

This has nothing to do with your ability to write songs, or how hard you rock, or how long your hair is, et cetera. It is, exactly and only, how quickly someone can hear you play and know that It Is You.

You really don’t hear that in guitar circles that much. There are different emphases in regards to What’s Important.

So. For the sake of argument, let’s reverse the genres here. (In case you haven’t read me before, that’s kinda my thing, flipping jazz and metal standards.) I think it’ll yield interesting discussion points.

Who, in the guitar land (here, specifically the stoner/ sludge/ doom arena) has the most distinct sound? (Again, not the fastest player, or the lowest tuning, or the best songs– just the most unique — and most easily identifiable– sound on the guitar.)

These are my picks. (Feel free to weigh in with your opinions in the comments section.)

In no order:

Wizardrone

Seven Foot Spleen, Stunted

Centurions Ghost, Hyena Circle

The Devil and the Sea (link to “Monolith”)

Conan-Satsumo

Sloath (link to “Cane Trader”)

VYGR, Hypersleep, cover

Interview with VYGR

Perhaps one of the true tests of the depth of a record is if it piques your interest beyond the album itself; e.g., makes you want to know more about the subject matter of the lyrics, or the musical style, or gets you interested in picking the brain of the creators of said music. Fortunately for me, the Ripple Effect and you, Ben from Creator-Destroyer records and guitarist/ vocalist PJ Mion from VYGR were open to fielding my is-he-slightly-autistic-or-just-a-geek questions.

Read my reviews of Hypersleep here and here.

Obviously I’m biased, but I think the questions reveal the greater than usual depth to both VYGR’s new record Hypersleep, as well as its creators.

Give a read and see for yourself:


What inspires VYGR? What music (metal or otherwise)? Books? Other artists?

P.J. Mion: I can really only speak for myself as far as this goes.  For me, musically, it’s a fairly wide range, probably a lot more than you’ll hear in the finished songs.  I think that almost everything that I spend a lot of time listening to, new and old, influences my songwriting in subtle ways at least.  Admittedly, I’d be real surprised if anyone listened to the new record and came to me with “I can really tell how much Echo & The Bunnymen and Portishead you listen to,” but in my mind there are some little things in terms of mood and structure that carry over from the albums I listen to frequently.  I guess some more solid inspirations would be a few 90s “space rock” type bands like Hum, Failure, Year of the Rabbit etc. as well as some contemporary bands that I really like such as Editors, Guiltmaker, Katatonia – For our newer material, there was a conscious effort to incorporate some of the catchy, delay-heavy leads and melodic but relatively simple rhythm guitar stuff that all of those bands make such great use of.  Obviously, I think some the heavier bands I love influence my writing too, stuff like Old Man Gloom, The Minor Times, Helmet and Crowbar.  Anyone who expected to see Isis listed in here is going to be disappointed, that comparison is getting pretty tired and personally I don’t think it really applies anymore if you listen to the stuff on Hypersleep.

As far as books go, I read a fair amount and watch a hell of a lot of movies, but I don’t think that really tends to inspire things with the band past maybe imagery that we might use.  I know that Devin (vocals) is into a lot of pretty rad graphic novels, movies, and obscure sci-fi stuff and I’d imagine that it inspires some of the concepts in his lyrics and artwork to some degree for sure.  All of the other guys bring in a lot of relatively diverse influences, and I think that’s definitely a good thing when it comes to working on songs.

Why do you play the music that you do, and not, say, jazz or classical?

The short answer for this one is that I’m not the type of inherently talented musician that would be able to do anything worthwhile in the realm of jazz or classical music without putting in much more work than I think I’ll ever find the time to do, unfortunately.  Keith is a great drummer and is a lot better with improvisation and music theory, so he might be the one who’s slumming it with the kind of stuff we play, but we all are into what we’re doing with VYGR or else we wouldn’t be doing it.  As long as this is still a lot of fun, I want to stick with it.  I’ve always preferred jamming and writing out my own ideas vs. practicing for technical proficiency, and I think that for all of us the whole punk rock ethic still holds up pretty well.  Everyone in VYGR has played in bands that are fairly different from what we’re doing now, and I think we all have ideas about experimenting with other types of stuff on our own, but I know that I’m not ready to give up playing on floors and screaming my head off just yet.

For that matter, why music instead of art or writing or sculpting or whatever…?

Devin actually does a lot with other artistic mediums, he does some great graphic design & illustration work and has recently been getting himself established as a tattoo artist.  I used to be pretty good with drawing/painting but never kept up with it.  What I like about playing “indie” music is that it allows for more or less unchecked creativity but also presents the opportunity to perform and produce something that people will (hopefully) want to come and see and get into without the degree of overt criticism and blind luck that seems to go into getting your work noticed as a painter, sculptor, etc.  But I’m not real well versed in that type of thing.  For me, playing a few shows on the weekends is less of a time requirement than spending hours on end perfecting a visual piece, and that’s a big help when you’ve got a day job involved.

How do you think Boston has influenced your sound? Or has it?

Hard to say, never really thought about it too much.  I suppose if anything the miserable winters we tend to get up here, especially when you’re living in the city and the snow never even stays clean enough to look anything but ugly, could lend a little bit of the gloomy/melancholy sound that a lot of our stuff has.  I don’t know how much of our material has been written in the winter vs. the summer months, but I’m always loving life up here when it’s warm, there’s a lot to do.  I guess it’s possible that what we write could have some mild seasonal affective disorder, haha…. Devin and I are both originally from NY though, so you won’t hear us dropping any R’s in the vocals.  There is definitely still a strong punk/hardcore scene up around here, and a lot of those bands put on great shows, but we don’t necessarily fit in with it all that well and I don’t think that we’ve really got any noticeable elements of whatever would be considered the “Boston sound” these days.

What’s your favorite part of Hypersleep?

Tough question.  Half of the record was written in little spurts over a really long period of time with an older lineup, and the other half was finished up in a much shorter time frame so that we could get into the studio with a full record – but a lot of effort was made to ensure that everything was cohesive and that the record would flow well – so hopefully that’s the case when people listen to it through.  I don’t want to be lame and just say that I like it all as a whole… Recently we’ve been opening our set with exactly how the first four tracks run into each other on the album, which I think works really well, so if I have to pick something that stands out to me it’s the way that it starts off.  Also I’ve gotta give our friend Zeuss a plug for how perfectly he fit the production to what we were looking for… to me it sounds huge without ever being overproduced or losing elements of how we sound as a live band, which in my mind is no easy task.  The man knows his shit.

Favorite song to play live? Why?

This is another answer that would probably be different for everyone in the band.  Especially now, with the split we put out last year (w/Monolith) and Hypersleep being released in addition to our 2008 record that we released while we were still called Voyager, there’s just way more material than we can fit into a live set.  Some people definitely still want to hear older songs at shows and I personally still enjoy playing them, but we want to work in a lot of the material from Hypersleep too, so it’s led to a little bit of butting heads over set lists lately.  But most of us enjoy headbutting each other when we’re drunk anyways, so it’s ok.  For me, the best live songs are “Shapeshifters” from the new record and “Surfacing” from our first EP.

Ever do covers live?

Somehow, this has still managed to never happen for us at a show, but I’m sure it’s something that we’ll do eventually.  We had a pretty solid cover of Crowbar’s “The Lasting Dose,” but never ended up playing it live and now that those guys are active again it seems weird to do it.  One of the songs we did for our split w/Monolith is a cover of “Cold” by the Cure, but we’ve never talked about doing it live.  I’ve got a few songs in mind that I’d like to cover at some point, maybe someday….

With whom would you most like to play?

Are we talking sky’s the limit here?  For me it’s pretty easy, It’d be Faith No More or mid/late-90s-era In Flames. Could go even further out on a limb and say Sabbath or Pink Floyd.  Back in the realm of reality, getting an opening spot for bands like Goatsnake or Cult of Luna would be pretty incredible for us.  We’re also really looking forward to doing some West Coast dates this summer with our labelmates in At Our Heels [Facebook here], real cool band, fast blackened hardcore stuff.  I suggest checking them out for people who are unfamiliar.

What amp/ guitar/ effects setup lets you be “as loud as humanly possible?”

Our individual guitar/bass rigs have been known to get switched up or tweaked fairly often.  I’m a Gibson guy mainly, I like SGs, even though recently I’ve been using an older Guild that I picked up, essentially just an SG copy but with a little bit brighter sound.  Currently, I’m running a VHT Deliverance 120 through Orange and Mesa cabs, but I’m looking to replace the Mesa cab soon.  Harry (guitar) and Brian (bass) have both recently changed amps, it’s been a while since we’ve played and to be honest I’m hard pressed to keep track of what everyone is using most of the time.  We all have our own little personal effects setups, but if you listen to the records you can probably pick out that we use delays and octave pedals a fair amount of the time.  Mostly being “as loud as humanly possible” comes down to balls more than gear… we have enormous balls.  We tend to always play with full stacks for both guitars, and two bass cabs, even in real small venues, which has been seen by some as overkill.  That’s alright though, they make fancy earplugs for people like that.  Pussies, that is.

I remember reading about Helmet’s setup way back before they were signed and how they blew up the PA at CBGB’s; you’re in good company.


Why B tuning? Isn’t that hard to keep in tune? What kind of strings do you prefer?

We’re tuned in drop-B for all of our stuff with the exception of some of the songs on the split LP.  It isn’t really an issue with the guitars holding tune as long as the instruments have been setup properly.  The guitars that I use for VYGR I wouldn’t go tuning back up higher to play for something else, they’re pretty much set specifically to stay in the tuning that we use for this band.  I use heavy gauge strings, .12-.54 or similar.  I’m not necessarily brand-loyal.

What kind of electronics does Devin Toye use? How’s that work live?

Up until this past year we had a complex rig that included a double keyboard stand, a big midi sequencer hooked up to a macbook, everything routed through a mixer into a DI box, etc.  It became too much trouble for venues that didn’t have good sound setups (or VFW halls with little PAs) and it was keeping Devin sort of trapped behind a bunch of gear, so nowadays it’s just a Microkorg and a sampler, which still allows us to pretty much take care of everything that we would need to play the songs we play live from all of the records.  It also gives Devin the chance to be a free-mic vocalist for a lot of the parts that aren’t synth-heavy, so that he can get out and yell in people’s faces, which gives a little better stage presence in my opinion.  People like to get accidentally spit/sweated on, right?

I can only speak for myself, but yes. What’s the symbol on the cover of Hypersleep, why does it look like a 12-sided die, and did I just out myself as a former D&D player?

It’s a mysterious anomaly, an “eye of the storm” at the center of the nebula that makes up the rest of the album layout.  Honestly I have no idea really, we had the idea of using a geometric or 3-dimensional-looking graphic as the centerpiece of the cover, and that thing is what Devin (who also handles our artwork) came up with to fit the overall sci-fi theme of the record.  Looks pretty interesting though, right?  Even without all of the little spikes coming out from the center, I think if you were to map it out fully there would be more than 12 sides for sure, probably closer to a 20-sided die.  Luckily for you, it’s metal, so I don’t think too many people will be upset with any D&D references.

[Curses self] I should’ve known it was 20-sided…! Stupid stupid stupid…! [rubs "Who died and made you Dungeon Master?" t shirt sadly]


Best sci-fi author? Movie? Best comic?

Again, this is all just me, everyone in the band has their own stuff that they like… I think that Devin and myself are probably the ones most heavily into the sci-fi and graphic novel stuff though.  For me, the best author in terms of ideas/imagination is Philip K. Dick, hands down.  The guy wrote literally hundreds of short stories, about 80% of which had ridiculously progressive concepts that arguably did a lot to shape the genre as it is today.  A lot of movies have been based on his work, not all of them that great (no fault of his…), but a few of the ones that did end up staying fairly true to the source material are also some of my favorites:  Blade Runner, Minority Report, Screamers, A Scanner Darkly.  Devin and I are both big fans of Cronenberg’s movies… most of the visual effects that were used in the 80s/early 90s blow the CGI that’s so heavily relied on today out of the water.  John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic too.

Trying to keep up with the graphic novels/comics that come out is impossible for me, but I still read some when I can find the time – Mike Mignola’s stuff is usually pretty good (Hellboy being his best known), and most recently I’ve been into Jason Aaron’s series Scalped… not exactly under the radar, but it’s popular for a reason.

Do you think your work influences your music? If so, how?

I don’t know, haven’t ever thought about it.  On some level, I guess, sure.  There’s nothing real creative about what I do as a geologist, but rocks are heavy and so is most of what I write, so there’s a connection for you.

What questions, during interviews, do you most dislike?

Yours have all been good, which is why you’ve got real answers here vs. rambling about outer space and drinking too much.  The only questions I’ve seen that I hate answering are the “what are your favorite bands right now?” “What are the top ten things you think people should be listening to?” etc.  No one’s going to give a shit what we listen to, and they probably shouldn’t.  It’s not like I’m Jack White or someone people obsess over, and even in those cases I think almost anyone would be better off figuring out what they want to be listening to on their own.  No lack of ways to find new music to check out these days.

What questions have you never been asked that you’d like to hear?

No one so far has ever inquired about where they should paypal their donations to my Friday Night Bar Tab Fund [Editor's note: you can do that here].  It probably isn’t a legit tax write off, but with so many semi-shady causes accepting money via text and all that nowadays, at least with mine you know where your dollars are going.

Also wanted to take a minute to thank Ben & Creator-Destructor for helping us out so much with getting this record finished up and released, definitely check out the label’s site - www.creator-destructor.com.  People can listen to a few songs from Hypersleep at www.VYGR.bandcamp.com, and for artwork/screenprinting related things give www.portalporfavor.com a look too.  Lastly, thanks a lot for the interview and for giving our new record a shot.

It was distinctly my pleasure. Thanks for entertaining my attempts at nearly-journalistic questions.


Thanks again to Ben Murray and PJ and VYGR for their time and hospitality. Now stop reading this, hit the links up there and get you some VYGR.