Interview by AstralKannibal & Giorgos Tsekas
When everyone thinks that using the words “Heavy Metal” to describe your music is a commercial suicide and yet – even though you can say anything you want from sludge to heavy rock or whatever trend is hot right now- you have the total respect from Heavy Maniacs all over the world. Furthermore your 4 full length album is once again awesome and your drummer is an excellent discussant, what else you want to take a chance to talk about “Purple”, Bowie, Lemmy etc etc…
Hello and welcome to Metal Invader.
Hello! I’m glad to be here.
Although you joined Baroness in 2013 you are something of a mystery to the fans of the band. You come from a DIY community. How did you process this huge change?
Basically, the thing is that the whole question of whether Baroness is a metal band or not is something that we talk about it and other people talk about. When other people ask me what kind of band is Baroness, I don’t really know if I could say that it’s a metal band any more. When they started out, before I joined it was definitely a metal band. I’m not sure if even “Blue” is really a metal album and “Yellow and Green”, I don’t think it’s either. So, I think that when John was interested in having me play drums for Baroness, the fact that I wasn’t a heavy metal drummer was part of the attraction for him.
You were in a band that had a loose attitude onstage. You were interacting and talking a lot with the audience and aiming to the fun of it all. How do you feel with this different approach?
It’s actually very different from what I do onstage with Trans Am, but they’re doing both high energy shows and I get to play a lot of drums in both, which I love. In Trans Am there is no frontband, so we put the drums in the front and I get to entertain a lot more. With Baroness we have very good performers onstage, John and Pete and Nick, so I don’t to do as much. But I have to play a lot of drums, which I love and there is a similarity because they both are high energy shows, like I said, and definitely hit as hard as I can and sweat as much as I can in both shows.
Are you not into metal at all?
I was always a fan of metal, as a kid I mean. When I was a little kid my favorite band ever was Manowar.
Well, Manowar is more popular to European audience…
In America some people think that they’re a joke or something, but whatever….I love them. I love Slayer a lot and in the nineties I was into death metal. I love Obituary and D.R.I., stuff like that. When black metal started rising that’s when I stopped listening to metal. So, it’s been a long time (laughs). Even though I never played in a straight-up metal band before I was always a fan of metal. And even in Trans Am we have some tracks that sort of explore heavy metal in a more minimal kind of way. It was always a dream of mine to play in a heavy band and now I get to do it. So I’m very happy about that.
“Purple” was our first recording with Baroness. The response here to the album is great. What so you think the difference is between this album and the rest of Baroness’ albums.
I think Baroness in the first two Ep’s was very much focused on progressive metal in a way, very rhythmic, much more technical and then John, starting with “Blue” and especially “Yellow and Green” really wanted to focus more on songwriting, on a chorus and a bridge and vocal melodies and things like that… So, I think the reason “Purple” is a success is that we tried to, sort of, combine those two sides together. It definitely has the songwriting that John wants to do that has no song structure, but we brought back a little more aggressive heavy sound that Baroness use to have and is not on “Yellow and Green”.
Did you bring any personal ideas in the record?
Yes, of course. The way some of the songs started was John and I hanging out and talking about different rhythms and grooves that we like. And we were like:”let’s do this song with this kind of beat and that song with that kind of beat…and then I would go home to New York and practice different things and go to Philadelphia and just John and I would play and try up these different ideas. That’s how some of the songs were started. So, yes we all were involved in the arrangements. I didn’t write any of the chord progression, but I definitely influenced the way the songs sound.
Although you haven’t experienced the terrifying bus crash the band survived from, how difficult was it to convey the grief into music? Did you think this album helped the band to recover?
Nick and I weren’t at the accident, but John and Pete tell us about it. You can hear the story, but you’ll never know… I think what happened is that because Nick and I were not in the accident it kind of gave the album two sides to it. On the one hand it’s optimistic and energetic and full of triumph and on the other hand it does have these dark lyrics to it. So, I think it has these two sides and John and Pete, even though this bus crash was a terrible thing, the fact that they were recording a new Baroness was a very positive experience for them. For Nick and myself, the fact that we got to join this great band and work on a cool new album was also a positive experience for us. So, Nick and I came at it from this angle of excitement and also with a little bit of impatience, because we worked on the album for about a year and a half. John and Pete were even more impatient because of the accident, which interrupted their whole trajectory. Basically, the accident, I think, even though it was a terrible experience for them and even though John is still living with the consequences physically -he is in pain every day- and the lyrics are really personal to John and deal with the consequences of the accident for him, still the music is more like:”Oh my God, this terrible thing happened and now we are making a new record!” That’s what the music sounds like to me.
For me the album was a natural step for Baroness and it seems like you have moved forward as a band and left the accident behind you.
I think you are right. When we start working on the next album and especially when the next album comes out, I think John and Pete are going to be tired talking about the accident, honestly. John broke his left arm and his left leg very badly and because of the surgery he had nerve pain in his left arm every day and had to take painkillers, so it was a heavy thing for him, but you are right, as a band we’ve moved on and the accident is in the rare view mirror.
I was checking your tour dates and you are fully booked until May. Are there any plans for European dates and probably Greece?
Let me check the dates….No, we’re not planned to come to Greece. I’m pretty sure that we’ll do two European tours this year, so in the Fall we’ll do the countries that we didn’t play on the first tour.
That’s too bad because there is a big audience here that loves your music.
Yes, I know…and I know Greece is great for heavy music in general.
How many people attend your latest shows?
In a big city and on a good night it’s almost a thousand people.
Tell us three albums that you’re looking forward to listen to in 2016 and five albums that you’ve heard in 2015 and really liked them.
I have to think about that for a minute…I honestly don’t listen to a lot of new music and that is my problem! I listen to a lot of old music, unfortunately (laughs). I’m a fan of Battles, which have released a new album. I also saw Deafheaven and I thought it was a good show, so I’ve got to check out their new album. Have you heard of a band called Nothing from Philadelphia? If not then check them out. I also liked the new Tribulation album.
Would you like to say two words about Lemmy or Bowie, before we close this interview? How do you see all this viral about these two great loses in the social media?
The Lemmy thing was very sad and I loved Motorhead, but you know, he made some great records and he had a good life, so it’s not really too tragic. I mean, he was surely a bit too young, but for me the loss of Bowie was a bigger deal, because I’ve been his fan since I was a child. I’ve been a fan in every stage of my life and I think it’s kind of the first time in my life that I’ve felt like it was the death of a superstar. I was too young to realize it when John Lennon died, I didn’t really care about when Curt Cobain died because I was already too old and then when Michael Jackson died I didn’t care, because he didn’t make a good record in twenty years. Bowie had so many different eras and so many different cool, weird records. About the stuff on facebook, I think it’s good, I think that everybody that is sad get to be sharing how much they loved his music. The best part is when I was in Brooklyn, there is a club four blocks from my house, it’s a dancing club kind of underground, cool one and they had a party last night where they were playing David Bowie’s music. I went because I’m friends with the owner and I thought there would be a lot of people like me, in their thirties and forties, but it wasn’t. It was all people in their twenties dancing to all David Bowie’s songs, which I thought was very cool, because it means that even younger people still appreciate him.
Thank you for this interview! I hope we’ll see you sometime soon in Greece!
Thank you too! Hopefully we’ll meet in our second tour of the year!