Monday, August 4, 2014

Pretty Mouth: The Last Interview

Pretty Mouth were one of the first bands to send me music, and also one of the first outside of South East Asia that I interviewed for this blog. Their unruly take on hardcore was a welcome relief during a period when few bands seemed willing to take chances, and I looked forward to every new release they sent my way as an excuse to act like a crazy person. Sadly, I learned recently that my Canadian BFFs are calling it a day. But before they turn the page on this chapter of their lives, I asked guitarist Andrew Cleveland to share his thoughts with me.

Dreams of Consciousness: Pretty Mouth recently announced that you guys are going your separate ways. I guess the obvious question is "Why?"

I've been sitting with this question for over 20 minutes now thinking of the best way to answer it. For the past year there have been different points in which each of us have wanted to end the band. I think I might have been the first, and Lance was definitely the last. I'm not sure if Kyle ever wanted this to end, I know closer to the end I didn't either. There were even talks of continuing with a new lineup but that wouldn't feel right.

The truth is Lance recently took on some more responsibility in his life, and on top of that his interest in music started to leave him. When he told us he was done, I think I knew in my heart that the band was done as well. Lance is one of the best and most creative performers I have ever worked with and if you've never had the chance to see him rip tape off of his face or douse himself in lube or baby oil you missed out. He is a creepy bastard and the things he comes up with for his stage performance our genuinely disturbing.

Oh, and we all hate each other.

photo by Yoshi Cooper
DoC: When you look back on your time with Pretty Mouth, what are you most proud of? And what are your regrets?

I hit a lot of milestones with PM. I think all of us did. Recording is definitely one of the things I would be most proud of. Everything always went really smoothly for the first part, and we never needed more than 24 hours to finish everything. Me and Kyle have amazing chemistry so we would normally bang things out in one or two takes. Same with Lance, for our first EP he did all of his vocals in one take on the spot. You can kind of hear his voice start to get shittier as the EP progresses.

Speaking of recording, I would say I am very proud of the three records we have released. There isn't really a single moment on any of them where I go "why the fuck did we do that". Other than the acoustic intro's and outro's on our first EP. I think quite a few people were confused by that, but in a weird way I guess we thought that it fit?

Getting the vinyl for FEARS was also a huge accomplishment. Which wouldn't have been possible without our label Bonesaw Records. We sat on that record for a little more than a year trying to figure out how we were going to release it, but I think we all knew vinyl was the way to go for that one.

As far as regrets go, there are too many to list, but the thing I regret the most is breaking up. Despite all of our internal issues, the second I hit the stage with those two I would always forgive and forget.

DoC: Before Pretty Mouth officially calls it a day, you have one more album to drop on us. What can you tell us about The Endless Mistake?

This record, at least aesthetically, really captures the current state of the band. Even the cover, if you didn't notice is the three of us foaming, puking, writhing, etc. It's the death of Pretty Mouth. The Endless Mistake is our funeral song. That artwork was made possible by the infinitely talented Candice Purwin, by the way. Check out her work, seriously. Out of everything we've recorded, and everything I've recorded in general, this is my favorite. I feel that it represents the sound we really wanted to go for initially. Especially the split we did with Orphan Donor. That is technically part of the record, to me at least. It is a huge shame to me that we have to break up right when this thing is released. We had a lot of plans to support this record but unfortunately it won't be happening.

Skeletal Lightning from the US is releasing 50 super limited cassettes of it though, and Epileptic Media from Europe is doing the same. Canada wise, that's still up in the air. If you want an early peek, the entire thing is streaming on Funeral Sounds.

DoC: You're currently playing bass with Mad Trapper. How did you get involved with them?

I've known the Mad Trapper guys for years now and I have always been a huge fan. We have also played with them quite a few times. When I saw their bassist Rino left, I thought I would see if they'd be down to have me join their ranks. I was also in the process of starting a band quite similar to them post-PM, so now I don't have to do that hahaha... Seriously though, it is a huge honor to be playing music with these guys, and I am looking forward to my future with them.

DoC: What's next for you guys?

Well, for me I am going hard with Mad Trapper, we are writing a full length and getting lots of shows in the process.

Kyle has two projects on the go right now; Maker, a post-hardcore type band and Codetalker. I can't really remember what Codetalker sounds like but the musicians involved are incredibly talented so I have no doubt that it will be awesome.

There is also a chance me and Kyle may be starting a two piece side project, but that's still up in the air right now.

As for Lance, he is adjusting to his music-less life. I think he is going to pursue other avenues of entertainment though, including acting and stand up. He will eventually start in a slasher movie about a guy who wears pantyhouse over his head and waterboards people with baby oil and lube.

Our last shows are September 12th and 13th in Ottawa and Toronto respectively. We are going balls out for these last two shows, so if you can, come.

The Endless Mistake will be available as a cassette and digital download through Skeletal Lightning August 6th and through the Pretty Mouth Bandcamp page on September 5th.
Thanks again to Andrew and Lance for the great interviews over the past couple years.

Pretty Mouth on Facebook

Pretty Mouth on Bandcamp

Dreams of Consciousness is on Facebook.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bandcamp Picks: Corrupt Moral Altar, Trap Them, Grimpen Mire, Sectioned

Corrupt Moral Altar are no strangers to this blog; any band that releases stuff on Bandcamp for free and gets praise from Napalm Death is going to end up on my radar. Mechanical Tides, their debut for Season of Mist, is where Wolverine Blues and Scum Converge (cough). Surprisingly adept at changing speeds, these guys sound as dangerous when they hit the brakes as when they're blasting out of control. And on the post-hardcore of "Admit Defeat" and "River Blind", they show they're capable more of than just pure destruction. [$9.99]

If anyone could be blamed for hardcore kids' current obsession with HM-2 pedals, it's Trap Them. On Blissfucker the band swings with the same Entombed-esque verve as before, except this time with an added emphasis on songwriting. The less is more approach serves them well on songs like "Gift and Gift Unsteady" and the closing track "Let Fall Each and Every Sedition Symptom". [$10]

Birmingham's Grimpen Mire come from the city where doom started, so I guess it's no surprise that they're one of the few bands doing it well. Their debut album A Plague Upon Your Houses is a commendable slice of sludgy doom, at times reminiscent of DoC faves Sea Bastard. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

The five songs on the new split EP by Edinburgh's Sectioned sound like Dillinger Escape Plan back when that was a good thing. On the other side of the split, fellow Scots Shudder counter the aggression with some lo fi shoegazing. An unlikely pairing for sure. The split is available as a "name your price" download.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Together As One

Terrorizer's Tom Dare posted an editorial discussing homophobia in metal. I didn't find his piece particularly well written or well thought out (in fairness, he does make some good points near the end). But the fact that it's currently causing a stir on their Facebook page makes me glad that he put it out there. His article was also how I found out that Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal are gay; they actually came out months ago (on my birthday, coincidentally enough) but at the time I was so swept up in being a New Yorker again that such things were a distant concern.

Even before seeing that article, I'd been thinking about homophobia a lot. I'm not sure why; possibly due to the constant gay slurs I hear in Malaysia, usually at my jiu jitsu gym. [Last night one of my regular training partners went on a rant about how American schools are "forcing kids to believe that it's okay to be gay." All I could do was look away and shake my head. If only he'd been wearing a tinfoil hat at the time, his cluelessness would have been funny instead of sad.]

Metalheads are often stereotyped as homophobic - the irony of one form of prejudice being countered with another hasn't escaped me. I remember seeing one trick punk pony Atom and His Package circa 2003; Adam introduced the song "Hats Off to Halford" with the preamble that metalheads "are all really dumb and homophobic" which meant Rob Halford was really brave for coming out of the closet [never mind that Halford came out while promoting his failed industrial rock gimmick Two...that's a different rant]. This, of course, is bullshit: I have yet to hear of a hesher whose opinion about Judas Priest was affected by Halford's sexual orientation. I mean, it's not like there weren't clues. Lots and lots of clues.

[Incidentally, "Hats Off to Halford" makes prominent use of "I Want to Be a Homosexual" by Screeching Weasel - a band whose singer could be seen punching girls at one of their recent shows. Maybe clean up your own closet before you come judging us, you sanctimonious punk rock shitheads.]

I consider myself to be pretty gay friendly. I went to art school. I start every day with the Rachel Maddow Show. Between the ages of 15-18 my best friend was the only other person in my high school who listened to Napalm Death and Godflesh; when he came out some years later, I was admittedly weirded out but did my best to be supportive. Once again, the clues were there - he never expressed interest in sports or girls and liked Gregg Araki's movies an awful lot. Of course, that description is equally true about me, so I never put two and two together.

At times I've played coy with my own proclivities, if only because it amuses me to make homophobes uncomfortable. I genuinely don't care whether people think I'm gay or not. If it forces people who enjoy me to be more tolerant, great; if it makes the people I don't like not want to be around me, even better. In a way, that weirdly reflects the "who cares?" attitude I see popping up in replies to Tom Dare's Terrorizer post. When I was younger, I would denounce that as apathy, or worse, libertarian self-centeredness. These days I'm more inclined to believe that true tolerance is something that doesn't need to keep advertising itself.

Is that a cop out? Is my support of marriage equality cancelled out by not confronting the homophobia in my gym? Can I still call bands I don't like "gay" when that word applies to some of my closest friends? All I know is the greatest thing that I've ever seen at a metal show is a bunch of dudes putting their arms around each other to headbang together. I see a scene so devoted to the idea of brotherhood and togetherness that it essentially made group hugs a recurring event at concerts; it's hard for me to imagine that same scene is intrinsically homophobic or intolerant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Crossover Top Ten

I was talking to a much younger friend who wanted to know where to start with crossover. I'm not the biggest fan of the style (I've always preferred grindcore, crossover's nastier, less goofy offspring), but I am from the generation when D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies shirts were ubiquitious, and over the years I have come to appreciate a few of the genre's standard bearers. Talking with my buddy got me revisiting my old crossover albums; here are my faves:

DRI - The Dirty Rotten LP
DRI - Crossover

The album that laid out the crossover blueprint, and the band that coined the term. Crossover as a genre I can take or leave, but DRI always sends me running in circles.

Ratos De PorĂ£o - Brasil

Mostly known for their association with Sepultura (who made RDP's "Crucificado Pelo Systema" a staple of their live shows), these guys hold their own against any of the big names of the genre. Showing the band at their tightest and heaviest, this album bears a curious similarity to one released a few years later called Chaos A.D.

Corrosion of Conformity: Animosity

The first crossover album I ever heard, at the tender age of 16. Politically conscious and musically manic, I had this on cassette - pretty much the best introduction to the genre a young hesher could get.

Cryptic Slaughter: Convicted

Cryptic Slaughter took speed to a whole new level, inspiring a new wave of bands to do the same - no less authority than Napalm Death cite them as a major influence.

Suicidal Tendencies - S/T

A few years ago while in Generation Records, I overheard a couple teenage heshers discussing how awesome Suicidal Tendencies were. Even though I mostly missed the boat on ST, it made me happy that new generations of metal and punk fans are still discovering and loving their music. Their debut album is the band's defining statement, and "Institutionalized" is one of crossover's most recognizable anthems - one that resonated with angry and misunderstood teenagers for decades. I mean, how could it not? All we wanted was a Pepsi.

Cro Mags - Age of Quarrel

Few NYHC bands embraced metal with the gusto of the Cro Mags. From their first album, they made it clear that they weren't embarrassed with the association, and even played shows with Destruction and Celtic Frost. On both stage and record, Cro Mags brought some much needed muscle and menace to crossover.

Agnostic Front - Cause For Alarm

Over their long career, Agnostic Front seemed to go back and forth between either distancing themselves from their metal phase or cashing in on it. But Cause For Alarm, their first foray into thrashier waters, opened the band up to a new audience of metalheads (not that we were always welcomed by the band's skinhead fans).

Filthy Christians - Mean

Everything I knew about Filthy Christians I learned from Entombed's liner notes. Seeing their name in Clandestine's "thank you" list, I was immediately intrigued. It took another decade before I was finally able to track down their lone album; rather than another band trying to emulate the Sunlight Studios sound, Mean is a unique slice of crossover that dabbled in the grindcore and death metal styles that were emergent at the time.

Spudmonsters - Stop the Madness

Honestly, it's hard to recommend The Spudmonsters over more important bands like SOD, Nuclear Assault, or the Crumbsuckers. They were late to the game and largely missed crossover's glory days, but don't hold that against them. Some of the members later resurfaced in Mushroomhead, but don't hold that against them either. I've always had a soft spot for this Cleveland crew, mostly because of the cover of Stop The Madness, which features the decapitated heads of Axl Rose, Bon Jovi, and Vince Neil. Definitely worth the $1.99 I spent on this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Darsombra Interview

I've been a fan of Brian Daniloski's music since his days in Meatjack, who were a staple of both CBGB's and my college all-nighters. With Darsombra, he took the slow menace of Meatjack and distilled it into something meditative and transcendental - coinciding with my own growing interest in doom/drone. I'm a sucker for music that pushes boundaries, so I e-mailed some questions to Brian, which he was kind enough to answer.

Dreams of Consciousness: How would you describe Darsombra?

An eargasm! An organically morphing entity. Currently Darsombra consists of two randy traveling minstrels roaming the globe in search of fun times with good people, good hiking trails and places to practice yoga, and epic food, all while putting on a mind altering audio-visual rock and roll show.

DoC: Darsombra makes fairly unorthodox music. What is your writing process like? Is there anything you wouldn't do in the context of Darsombra, musically speaking?

Sometimes I get a feeling, not even a melody or anything tangible as such, and I grab my guitar and/or some effects pedals and I try to convey that feeling. Other times I do indeed get a melody in my head from the aether and I try to translate that. Still other times I'll just jam for fun and something usually comes out of that. As far as the context, anything goes if it feels right. It's honest and always reflective of where we are currently.

DoC: At times the songs take on a meditative quality. Is there an intentional religious/spiritual element to Darsombra?

I do like to cultivate a meditative and spiritual quality to my music not only as a personal reflection and for my own enjoyment, but also as an invitation or an offering to the audience. If we can help people to another state of consciousness, or just to relax, with our performance, that is a good thing.

DoC: You recently embarked on a massive U.S. tour, including shows with Floor and Hot Victory. What was your favorite moment? What was your least favorite? Do you see yourselves going on another long tour like this again?

We just played 10 weeks of shows across the U.S. and we had a blast! It's very hard to name a favorite moment because there were so many of them but some highlights for me were: playing on a boat designed as a traveling theater stage in the Louisiana bayou, great hiking throughout the southwest, taking mushrooms in the redwoods, co-ed naked hot springs in California (somebody's gotta bring that to the east coast!), and of course ending our tour by playing a string of shows with Floor and Hot Victory. Least favorite. . . probably Ann getting food poisoning in Nebraska, or when we had to throw away our moldy bedroll at a rest stop in Washington. It's tour. Shit happens! Sometimes literally in your pants. We plan to do another tour like this the same time next year. There were still so many places we didn't get to visit. America is big!

DoC: How did Ann Everton become involved in the band? How has Darsombra changed since she joined?

It evolved very organically. Ann is a video artist. We were asked us to perform a collaborative piece at an event with Ann providing visuals while I made music. Instantly we realized how well this worked and decided to bring this element to Darsombra. We travel well together so it worked out great. A little later, at the coaxing of a friend, Ann joined me onstage, initially just to add vocals. Ann is a natural performer. Again, instantly we realized this worked really well and was fun. So we brought a synth and percussion into the mix. The sky's the limit.

photo by Jackson O'Connell
DoC: How important is the visual aspect to Darsombra's performance?

Pretty important. It's part of the whole performance at this point. We still do occasional shows in the outdoors in the daytime where projections aren't visible and we still have fun playing, but it really is something special in the dark with the visuals. There's an added cinematic dimension that we enjoy.

DoC: What do you want the audience to take away from Darsombra's live experience?

I remember a really good response in Indianapolis on this past tour--after the show, a woman came up to us and told us she wanted to buy some music to take home and fuck her man to. . . and then, a moment later, her man came up and told us how he was going to go home and fuck to our music! Glad they're on the same page! We're content just to make other people happy or feel inspired. I think inspiring others is the greatest compliment--though turning people on is of course a compliment as well!

DoC: How much of what you play live is improvised?

In a usual performance, most of the music is composed and, at times, in sync with the visuals, with a few places for improvising built in the overall compositions. Once in a while we'll do improv sets for special occasions, and we're trying to add in more room for improvisation overall when we get the chance. We have a performance coming up where we'll be inside a large outdoor installation constructed of found material with a bunch of handmade found material percussion instruments inside for the general public to explore and play. For that we will be improvising off of the sounds going on around us.

DoC: And now, my obligatory Meatjack question(s). [Sorry.] How do you feel when you look back on the band? Do you think Meatjack was appreciated during its time? What do you think their (your) legacy is?

I feel proud of what we did with Meatjack. I thought we were a damn good band (in my humble and unbiased opinion). I do feel that Meatjack was appreciated during its time in its own way. I laugh when people say "I hope you make it!" whatever that means to them. I did make it! I'm making it every day! I don't count heads. That has never been my goal with making music. It takes away from the fun of what I'm doing. If only 3 people appreciate something, I feel that it's just as valid as something appreciated by 3000 people. So yeah, I think Meatjack were appreciated, by a small and wonderful group of freaks! Legacy, that's a hard one. I guess we were one of a smallish group of bands that were operating in some sort of music underground, playing at the cutting edge of one of the myriad offshoot sub-genres of metal. Of the time and well played.

photo by Bronson Karaff
DoC: What does the future hold for Darsombra?

We're currently working on new material. We're playing the Kansas City Psych Fest in October with a few U.S. shows around it, and working on a European tour for right after that. Next spring we plan to do another big U.S. tour.

Darsombra on Facebook

Darsombra on Bandcamp

Darsombra Tumblr

Dreams of Consciousness is on Facebook.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Meatjack Interview from 2003

As a tie-in with my Darsombra interview, I dug this one up from the archives: One of the first interviews I ever did was with Darsombra's Brian Daniloski and his brother Jason back when they were with Meatjack. It was in 2003, around the time the band released their last album, the criminally underrated Days of Fire.

For some reason, I always remembered the interview as not being very good; I was still learning how to put together questions, and phrased a lot of them awkwardly. In going back and looking at it again, I was surprised to find that the questions weren't that different from the ones I asked about Darsombra, a decade and change later. 

Sigh. Still learning.

DoC:  First off, how did the tour go? Any interesting anecdotes?
Brian: The tour went very well. After 2 1/2 years off the road/looking for a drummer we're incredibly happy to be doing this again. Usually in the past I've got some crazy tour stories but my mind comes to a blank on this last tour. There was a lot of the typical hard partying, sleep depravation and malnutrition that comes with any tour but nothing outrageous that I can think of.

DoC: What was the reaction to the new material?

Brian: People seem to dig it very much. We are getting a great response to the new stuff.

DoC:  Meatjack's sound seems heavily dependant on guitar effects.  Is this hard to pull off live, and how do you cope with any difficulties?

Brian: I don't think that our sound is heavily dependant on guitar effects at all. Maybe some of our earlier material was. It depends on the song. I've been highly influenced by people like Adrian Belew who build these whole sonic landscapes based on guitar effects, but now I'm trying to concentrate more on the song and melody first, then effects second. I think you can hear that shift on the "Days of Fire" CD. If you don't have a good song to start with, all the effects in the world aren't going to amount to shit. It's like a movie with great visual effects but a weak plot. There might be an initial impact of "wow!" when you're seeing it for the first time, but it'll have no staying power.

Some nights it can be a little difficult to pull off all the effects live, especially if I'm cramped for space or having electrical power issues, but for the most part it comes off just fine. I have an elaborate little dance that it looks like I'm doing around my pedals when I'm playing in order to make it all happen.

Jason: A house is only as strong as its foundation, a band is only as good as its drummer and a guitar riff is only as good as it is without effects. Effects are the icing on the cake. With the new stuff I was always saying to Brian, "I like that riff. Now play it like Wino (Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan, Obsessed)." "What would Wino do?" was my mantra while writing this record. That always made everything rock more.

[completely unnecessary DoC interjection: Scott "Wino" Weinrich is the godfather of modern doom rock, and a living legend.  If you don't know who he is, head straight to Saint Vitus' "Born Too Late" or the Obsessed's "Church Within", or get yourself run over by a bus]

Plus when I write stuff I don't have any effects so they aren't too overbearing on those particular songs. It's all about the all encompassing riff.

DoC:  Do you still use the film projector in the background?  How do/did the visual effects enhance the performance?

Brian: No, we've stopped doing that. Our last projectionist J.R. decided that he wanted to move on and do something else with his life instead of constant touring. We spent almost three years just dealing with trying to find the right drummer so that we could get back to rocking. So by the time we did we weren't about to wait around looking for a projectionist too. We're a rock band first and foremost. So the idea was to strip away all the smoke and mirrors and just be a rock band. It was fun and cool when we used to do projections but I gotta admit the extra space in the van and the shorter loads and less elaborate set ups on this last tour were very nice.

DoC:  What is the writing process like for Meatjack?  Do songs start with jam sessions, or is it a matter of arranging sections that are created individually?  And at what point are the lyrics brought in?

Brian: The writing process can be like either one of those for us and more. Sometimes we'll just jam at the rehearsal space with the tape rolling and we'll come up with something. Lately it seems more like individuals come in with ideas and then the whole band works on modifying and arranging together. Lyrics usually come after we've written a piece of music but not always. Anything goes for the most part but the end objective is that we're doing justice to whatever the song demands.

DoC:  With your line-up solidified and an incredible record just released, what is in the immediate future for Meatjack?

Brian: More touring. Plans are to hit the west coast in spring. Hopefully to hit Europe sometime soon. Plan on seeing a lot more of us.

DoC:  Any bands that you did shows with that you want to plug/give shout outs to?

Brian: Rwake, Stinking Lizaveta, Swarm of the Lotus, Keelhaul, Weedeater, Kita, Nob, Minsk, Members of the Press, Today I Wait, Supagroup, Collapsar, Social Infestation, Cream Abdul Babar, Unpersons, Beaten Back To Pure, Igon, etc., etc., (sorry if we forgot someone, so many bands.........).

DoC:  Thanks so much once again for taking the time to do this.

Brian: Thank you. Anyone interested in more info please check out

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bandcamp Picks: Mortals, Tombs, The Sheltering Sky, Wolves in the Throne Room

The long awaited full-length debut by Brooklyn's Mortals is finally upon us. Cursed to See the Future is described by their label as "equal parts High On Fire and Darkthrone". You should always be wary of label write ups, but this is the rare instance where that's truth in advertising. There is a definite similarity to Matt Pike's steamroller riffing, and some blackened melodies cover the songs with a frostbitten sheen. But most impressive is the trio's use of dynamics. Not since Kylesa went all psychedelic has a band done something this interesting with the style. Big things loom on the horizon. [$7]

Brooklyn's Tombs were early pioneers in mixing black metal with doomy post-hardcore; while in the past I may have found their black metal sections to be stiff and uninteresting, on Savage Gold they're definitely the best the band has ever done - so much so that it doesn't matter that the other elements of the band's sound have largely been muted. When they do slow things down, it results in the kind of cold menace that Red Harvest did so well. One of the better chapters in the ongoing story of USBM. [$9.99]

Speaking of of the best forgotten bands of the last decade were NYC's Cattlepress. And so it was a big deal for me when I learned former Cattlepress guitarist Eddie Ortiz has returned with The Sheltering Sky. That Which Obstructs The Light is in some ways a sandblasting throwback to the late 90's/early 2000s when hardcore was bursting at its seams with unique and groundbreaking albums (and not coincidentally, when Cattlepress was at their apex). I'm glad Ortiz has a new vehicle for his unorthodox style after The Dying Light and Cattlepress called it quits. [$3]

Black metal bands releasing instrumental synth albums is nothing new; in a way, it was the next logical step for Wolves in the Throne Room. Celestite evokes the keyboard-heavy soundtracks of classic 70's horror and sci fi films by Tangerine Dream and Goblin. To that end, I tried syncing it up with the only sci fi movie I had handy, 2013's Riddick. As goofy as that movie is, the results worked surprisingly well. The Weaver brothers may find a second vocation scoring films. [$9]