Tuesday, 29 December 2009

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Tommy Gleeson from Slaves to Gravity.

Hey guys,
Hope everyone had a good Christmas! Looking forward to New Years?
I recently got the chance to do an interview with Tommy Gleeson, the lead singer from London’s Slaves to Gravity. An excellent band I recommend you all check out!
So, to keep you entertained in the lull between Xmas and New Years Eve, here’s the interview:

1. You've just finished touring with The Butterfly Effect. How did the tour go for you?
It was great to get back in a van and hit the road. We’ve been locked in a studio all summer, so there were a lot of cobwebs to blow out and energy to unleash. The Butterfly Effect dudes are some of the nicest people on the planet, and it was a real pleasure sharing some stages with them, great band. Nice to reconnect with our audience again and play some new music, which I think went down a storm. Everyone was very patient and allowed us to try some new stuff, which we appreciated. Based on the response from these gigs i think the new record is really going to make a connection.

2. Any amusing stories from the road?
Plenty, but our sense of humour is pretty abstract and probably wouldn’t translate all that well in print! For me, just watching our new drummer Gem get pissed and go insane every night was ample entertainment.

3. You've been playing some new songs on this tour, how have those gone down with the crowd?
Very well I think. It’s always a gamble playing new songs live that no-one has heard before, and 7 out of 8 songs in our set were from the new record! We toured Scatter The Crow a lot and whilst we all love those songs, we were dying to share our shiny new tunes with everyone. I think the new songs translated very well in a live setting. They rock like bastards and they get people’s hearts racing and their feet moving. People seemed to be picking up on the lyrics and singing the last chorus’ back at us too, which was really cool. Even the bizarre time signatures didn’t shake them off!

4. Speaking of new songs, how’s the new album coming along?
We finished tracking back in September and mixing has just started over in L.A. It’s the first time we’ve not been in the room for the mix which is strange and a little disconcerting, but Bob (Marlette – Producer) has amazing ears and we trust him. We’re getting tracks through via email, making our comments and sending them to him so he can make any little tweaks required. It sounds fucking amazing to me and I’m very proud of what we’ve created. It’s a big, dynamic record with a lot of subtle shading and twists in the plot and I really can’t wait for people to hear it.

5. Have there been many changes in your musical direction on the new album, or can we expect a release quite similar to ‘Scatter the Crow’?
In a sense we set out in a similar way – to write the biggest, baddest, songs we could, but as the process unfolded the record took on a sound very much it’s own and ended up quite different to Scatter. To me that album is very dark, quite claustrophobic and guilty of being a bit linear at times. With the new songs, there’s hope glowing quietly in the corners. There’s a warmth and a humanity about it. It has a very dark side, but it doesn’t take itself so seriously. We’ve taken several large strides forward in my opinion. The song writing is better, more direct, and we have really improved as musicians. Having Bob on board was great. He had a skeleton key that opened all manner of strange doors that we’ll never close again, to quote Bowie. He encouraged us to really push our creativity to the limit and to have the confidence to go out on a limb without fear of falling or looking stupid. He’s an incredible musician too, and he put down some fantastic parts on Keys and Harmonica that added some really nice fairy dust to the album.

6. What was the recording experience like this time around?
We made this record in 2 sessions, split over 3 weeks. Scatter the crow took the best part of 3 months. We were much more focused this time around, largely down to having a producer keeping us on track. He wouldn’t allow us to procrastinate about a single guitar part for 3 days. If the knee-jerk reaction was that it sounded cool, it stayed. There was no analysing anything. It was another thing for us to get our heads around, but I think that’s where a lot of the humanity I was talking about comes from. It’s in the slight imperfections and the spontaneity of some of the performances. The studio (Monnow Valley) was really great, too. The people that run it are super cool and it’s in a beautiful setting in the Monmouthshire countryside, away from the choking mess of London. You could hear yourself think there, and there were cows to talk to when things got tough.

7. Your first album was self released through your own label, Gravitas Records. You're now signed to Spinefarm Records. Has that had any affect on the recording of the new album?
Our deal with Spinefarm was only for the release of the last single from Scatter The Crow (Doll Size) and the redistribution of the album. Our distributors had gone skint at the end of 2008 which really fucked us, and Spinefarm are plugged into the marketing and distribution of Universal, so it made sense for us to ink a deal with them and get the album back out there. The new album is totally separate. We’ve made it on our own without any label backing, and we’re looking for the right home for it now.

8. Have you set a title or release date for the new record yet?
We’re aiming for a March / April release, but as yet it’s officially TBC.

9. When it comes to writing songs as Slaves to Gravity, how does that work? Do you turn up with the main bulk of the songs or is it entirely a group effort?
With this album, I demoed most of the songs in fairly complete form and bought them to the band to listen to. They’d learn the arrangement and then we’d start trimming off the fat as well as adding meat to the bones. …everyone just adding their creativity and ideas. There are 2 songs that I co-wrote with Mark that sort of worked the other way round… Working off of his home demos. Once we had about 18 songs, we demoed them again as a band. Some of the songs ended up more or less exactly as they started out and others are almost unrecognizable.

10. What influences you as a writer and performer?
I knew I wanted to be a musician from a very early age. I started playing drums when I was 5 and got hipped to Guns n’ Roses when I was 7. Hearing them for the first time was like being electrocuted. Ever since I’ve wanted to make music that could have that effect on other people, because it’s the greatest feeling in the world and everyone should experience it. I want to take all the danger and sex and desperation in the world and turn it into a big, swaggering riff that makes people want to dance and fight and fuck each other!

11. You've got four gig dates set for January, but they're all down south, any chance of seeing you up north in the first part of the year? Or will we have to wait till the album’s released?
We’ll be touring a lot in 2010. You’ll definitely be seeing us in your manor.

12. You’ve recently had a new arrival to the Slaves family, after the departure of former drummer Jason this year. How did that affect you and the other members of the band?
It was hard because I’ve been playing music with J for 7 years. He was one of the first guys I met when I moved to London and we have been a huge part of each- others lives ever since. It was a huge blow when he told us he was leaving, and it came just a couple of weeks before we started tracking the new album, but we fully understood and supported his decision. His dad had a bad stroke and J wanted to be there to look after him. Things like that make you reassess your priorities in life. We’re still good friends.

13. How is Gemma settling in to the band? Did she get a chance to lay down any of the drum tracks for the new album, or were those all handled by Jason before he left?
J played all the drums on the new album, and did a really great job. Bob is pretty brutal when it comes to drums and J had to take a lot of stuff on the chin, but he raised his game and played his ass off. It hopefully gave him a sense of closure as well. Gem’s been settling in just fine though. She’s a fucking revelation! Her style is very different from J’s and it’s given us a real shot in the arm. She’s mad, absolutely mad and just a brilliant drummer. In some senses it would have been great if she’d played on the record, but it just wasn’t ever going to work out that way. It’s definitely spiced things up live though and I can’t wait for us to write together.

14. Have there ever been times in your musical career when you've considered giving it all up and working in an office?
Yeah there have been a few. It’s tough out there for musicians. The industry is in bad shape it’ll take you down if you’re not careful. I’m lucky that I have an incredibly supportive fiancé and family who keep me going through the dark times. They have to put up with a lot of shit because of my chosen path, but I think they realize that my soul is in this, and without it I’d be dead, so they stand behind me. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the courage to stick with it and I’d probably be stacking shelves to pay for smack.

15. Many people reckon that the recording industry will cease to exist in its current form within the near future. What are your views on the current state of the recording industry? How does it affect you?
It affects me greatly! There’s no doubt that the industry is in trouble, but it’s always been a shit business. It’s the result of the gory train-wreck that is the collision of art and commerce. As an artist, you have to be very strong and committed to what you’re doing, and you have to find a way of keeping your art pure. It’s very hard to make a living, especially now stealing music is widely accepted as being OK, but you just have to keep going. Competition is fierce and you need to be prepared to work your balls off to get where you want to go. Embrace the new media and be smart about the moves you make and the people you work with. I don’t know any better than the next guy where things are going with the industry, what shape it will take in the future, but I do believe that people will always want to hear music of substance, so I still have faith.

16. How has illegal downloading and file sharing affected Slaves to Gravity? Is it something you’re opposed to or do you view it as a 'necessary' evil and that's its getting people to come to the shows that matters?
Call me old school, but I’m still of the opinion that stealing is wrong. I know a lot of people who are trying to work a system whereby they accept that no-one is going to pay for their record and therefore they try to make money elsewhere – through touring, merch etc, but to me it’s missing the fucking point. By giving away a record that has taken a year of blood, sweat and tears to write and record, you are implying that it has no intrinsic value. That’s the wrong message to be sending out. I wonder how they’ll react when kids just start stealing t-shirts?

18. Anything else you’d like to add?
Just to say thank you to everyone for their continued support! If you haven’t done it already, stop by Myspace, Facebook, Bebo, Youtube etc and say hi. See you on the road!

I want to thank Tommy for a great interview. Very much looking forward to the new album!
If you want to check out Slaves to Gravity, you can find them at: Myspace, Facebook, Youtube.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Gig Review: Nile - Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton - 16/12/09

As one of only two UK dates, and with 5 bands on the bill for only £13, you’d expect tonight's venue to be full. You’d be wrong. Arriving at the venue 15 minutes after (the admittedly early, 6:30) doors, just in time to catch the start of the set from tonight’s openers, we find roughly 50 people lingering in a space capable of holding just over 1000. Still this does nothing to deter Hackneyed (6), who put on a solid performance of their well-played, if not slightly dull brand of death metal.

With about another 50 people having shown up, and some of us wondering where the hell everyone else was, it was time for Ulcerate (6). Who, much like Hackneyed played a well-performed, tight set of well written but fairly unoriginal death metal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of death metal but I do feel it’s a genre that reached its peak in the 90’s and everything that was come about in the scene since has, for the most part, been uninspired copies of older bands.

Speaking of older bands, up next were Swedish old school death metaller’s Grave (7), showing the new guard how to do it and getting the first decent crowd reaction of the night in the process. Playing a mix of songs from the full range of their back catalogue, even dipping back in to their debut release Into The Grave a couple of times, Grave manage to do a great job of getting the crowd in the mood for what's to follow.

By the time Brazil’s Krisiun (6) hit the stage the room has filled up a bit, though not as much as you’d of thought. With a sound that's influenced by the likes of Morbid Angel and Slayer, though if you’d watched Krisiun tonight, that fact wouldn’t have been lost on you, they do manage to get the cword riled up, even seeing the first pit of the night.

Tonight seems to have, for the most part seems to have been a display of the best of mediocre death metal. Let’s hope that tonight’s headliner’s Nile (8) can make up for the otherwise lack lustre bill. And with just over an hour of their trademark Ancient Egyptian themed death metal, the American’s do just that. An ideal set, aside from a small technical glitch at the very end, has the small but dedicated crowd leaving happy.

Overall gig rating: 7/10

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Gig Review: Dragonforce - Academy, Liverpool - 12/12/09

Tonight was the last night of the Ultra Beatdown tour cycle, and with Dragonforce announcing that they would be playing no live dates during 2010, this was certainly a night with a lot of excitement surrounding it.

For those of you who have never heard of Sylosis (8), well, you should of! Even with a meagre half hour time slot they still managed to put on truly brutal, fist pumping set of their trademark sound, taking the best of Testament’s thrash sound and grinding it together with Pantera’s groove to produce a unique post-thrash sound. It’s not often you’ll see a band so low on the bill manage to rile the crowd up enough to get a pit going for ever single song, but Sylosis did just that. An excellent performance, which leaves me sorely waiting for their new album and headline tour, both slated for 2010.

Now, anything following Sylosis’s blistering set was bound to sound weak and effeminate, but I’ll admit I wasn’t quite ready for Sabaton (6) and their weird brand of techno tinged “Swedish Gay Metal”. Maybe it was because it was the last night of the tour, or maybe they’re just always like this but I wasn’t entertained by this lot. A few people in the crowd were enjoying the set, but generally speaking most people were disinterested, simply waiting for Dragonforce to take the stage.

This set was quite a hard one to review. On one hand, Dragonforce (7) played everything they needed to to keep people happy, but on the other hand they simply looked and acted like they were fed up of being on tour and one has to wonder if the, apparently, playful verbal sparring between Sam and the audience and Herman doesn’t have more than hint of truth and bitterness behind it, which such questions being asked of the crowd like “Hands up all of those who only Through the Fire & Flames” (to which about of a third of the crowd raise their hands) and complaining that the crowd wasn’t getting involved enough, but that’s ok because “this next song just sounds like all the others we’ve played.” Is this a band on the verge of tearing itself apart? The mandatory Fire & Flames is played as the last song during the encore and, as this is the last night of the tour, the stage is invaded by all three of the supporting bands (Sabaton sans clothes and wielding Guitar Hero controllers), much to the amusement of the crowd. And with that they’re done. Taking a year off is probably the best thing for Dragonforce at this point, though I for one, wouldn’t be surprised if this break doesn’t become indefinite.

Overall gig rating: 7/10. Sylosis by far outshone the rest of the bill but all-in-all it was a good night’s entertainment.
You can find Sylosis at: Myspace, Facebook.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Gig review: Alestorm - Central Station, Wrexham - 11/12/2009

To put this review in context, let me start of by saying, there have been very few times in my life when a gig has been so poor that I’ve left early. Tonight is one of those nights.

First up was Eden’s Curse (4). Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the odd bit of power metal, but this band exemplified all that’s wrong with the genre. Poorly written songs, played to a mediocre standard with a lead singer who could’ve, basically, been pulled out of the crowd. Not even a cover of Steel Dragon’s We All Die Young could save their set (for those not familiar with Steel Dragon, go watch the movie Rock Star.)

Next up was The Rotted (6) a band who’re normally a pleasure to watch, thought tonight a combination of a terrible sound mix, a poor crowd reaction and their inclusion on a bill that a hardcore-tinged death metal band have no right being on, leads to a lacking performance, definitely a band you’re better off seeing on a all death metal show.

Finally we had Alestorm (5), a band who have become little more than a joke. And an over told joke that isn’t funny any more. Sure, the crowd were excited to see their favourite pirate metal band and they play all their “hits”, but with an hour set and only two albums, that’s not exactly hard. It doesn’t help that the sound near the stage is atrocious; with keytar being pretty much all you can hear. The fact that that it sounds far better from the sound desk implies that Alestorm need to hire a sound engineer who knows what he’s doing. It was about 40 minutes in to the set that I decided to leave, there was nothing worth staying for. Alestorm’s brand of jaunty pirate metal was at best a novelty, and the novelty has most defiantly worn off.

Overall gig rating: 5/10.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Gig Review: Porcupine Tree - Academy, Manchester - 10/12/09

I’m not going to pretend I was a long time Porcupine Tree (9) fan going in to this gig, but it’s safe to say that after tonight’s stunning set, I will be a fan for a long time to come!
Judging by tonight’s near sold out crowd; I’m a little late to the party getting on the bandwagon. Those in attendance tonight we treated to an almost two and a half hour long, two part set. For the first hour we’re treated to a full rendition of the bands latest opus, the 14-track-but-really-one-big-song PorcupineThe Incident. This was truly an amazing experience and if you’re a fan of Prog, be it Pink Floyd and Rush from the 70’s or modern metal bands like Dream Theatre and Mastodon, I strongly suggest you get along to one of the remaining tour dates, or catch the band when they play more UK dates next autumn, as there is nothing quite like seeing a concept album played live, in full.
After a short break the band make their way back to the stage for the second half of the show and for the remaining hour or so we’re treated to a mix of songs from a wide range of Porcupine Tree’s history including a few unreleased gems, such as Normal, taken from the Fear of a Blank Planet sessions. Another short break later and the band are back for the encore, playing a few tracks from ‘02s In Absentia. And with that comes to end an awesome night’s entertainment from one of Britain’s stalwarts of prog rock. I personally can’t wait to see them again next fall!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Part 2 of our interview with J. Loren from HURT

Had some great feedback to part 1, so without further ado, here's part 2:

1. The band has seen a number of line-up changes since it's inception in 2000, do you feel this has been detrimental or beneficial to the band?
Hmm, it’s hard to say as I don’t know it any other way.

2. Line-up changes are never easy and given the headway you made with 'Vol. I' and 'Vol. II', was it hard to lose Josh and Evan? Did Rek and Louie bring something to the band that you thought was missing?
It always sucks when a band member leaves, but as in life, with every change is a chance for improvement I would say Lou has a better grasp of delicacy which I felt was lacking in a few songs and Rek is a more core-solid hold down the bottom end style player when compared to Josh. I believe both of these aspects alone brought significant improvement. But everybody has their own style. There is no real right or wrong. It’s just music.

3. As the only remaining original member of the band, and as the bands principal song writer, do you consider HURT to be "your" band?
I do, as should Rek, Paul, Louie and Michael.

4. How much do the other members of the band contribute to the song writing process?
Depends on the song, we just do our best collectively and basically let the song finish itself. I’m sure that any one of us could finish any one of the others duties if we absolutely had to but that loses that magical combination of different intuitions and styling’s united under the same goal.

5. Do you feel that the line-up changes have accounted for the subtle shifts in style between the periods of the band ('The Consumation'-era, 'Vol. I' & 'Vol. II'-era and the current 'Goodbye to the Machine'-era)?
Umm, Goodbye to the Machine was the first record that was heavily co-written and was also a record that we did not want to sound like it should be called Vol.3 It’s hard to say what changed the style more. I can tell you that The Consumation, to Vol.1 changes are just the way things seemed to go with the production.

6. What influences you both as a person and as a musician?
I was greatly influenced by getting to know the Deleo brothers (best known from Stone Temple Pilots) It was their genuinely kind and gracious character and pay-it-forward attitude that I found to be even more impressive than their formidable musical prowess.

7. You've been quite outspoken in the past on trying to assure people that you're not a metal band but, if anything, a rock band. Why do you feel the need to make this distinction? After all, past great bands such as Soundgarden and Alice in Chains were labelled as metal but still had a wide range of styles from their heavier tracks to acoustic and blues inspired songs. Is this simply to try and avoid the stigma that gets attached to many metal bands with the non-metal listening general populace or is there some other reason?
I simply want people to know what they are buying so that they may better enjoy the tunes. For instance, if a commercial for a movie depicts it to be a comedy and it ends up to be anything else I am one of the pricks who will get my money back and leave the theatre. I’m not just illustrating a point; I actually don't even give the movie a chance and leave. I believe the same thing could happen when someone wants to jam out to some metal and finds out that’s not what they bought.

8. Do you feel you've maybe not had as much mainstream success as some of your peers because of the fact that you want to write good songs, songs you want to hear and not just write songs you don't believe in but know will make you money? Does this ever bother you?
I never regret being true to myself as this was the best piece of advice I’ve even heard from such a considerate mind as your William Shakespeare. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we never had a push from a label (they never really did the full scale promotion with us). If a band as quirky as System of a Down can become the next big thing, I don't think that my music would be found unpalatable once properly introduced.

9. Have you ever done anything in the music business you regret?
There were a couple people I probably should have murdered with a cheese grater, but I’m sure they will get what's coming to them from the next crazy guy they fuck over. But, seriously, no, I don’t focus on the business now that I am no longer a businessman.

10. Some of your lyrics seem to pertain to faith and God. Do you yourself have faith? If so, what sort of role does it play in your life? How does it affect your attitude towards the music industry?
I have no interest in telling people what they should believe. I attempt to do what I believe to be right and considerate while simply hope that others will do the same. I can easily say that my faith or lack thereof plays no role in my business decisions since I would place strong character (demonstrated honor) above the grandest non-adhered-to ideals.

11. Many people believe that the recording industry will cease to exist in its current form sometime within the next five years. What are your views on the current state of the recording industry?
Music will survive, but barely. It will be very tough for new bands that don't do quick, fast and cheesy tunes greatly aided by their home computer and you can expect to hear some really poor quality recording become the norm since professionals will be working at gas stations instead of studios. A band will make a good sounding record at home because they had all the time in the world to do it and then the next album will likely sound like garbage without time or money.

12. How does illegal downloading and file sharing affect HURT as a band? Are you against it or do you view it as a 'necessary' evil and that's its getting people to come to the shows that matters?
Nothing in life is free. My albums certainly aren’t as they come at tremendous financial cost to me. I constantly worry about how to gather enough money to make the next album whilst people download crappy facsimiles and low res mp3s of my music that was painstakingly manicured.
Every album costs me enough to buy a home outright and yet I am homeless because I have to eat the cost of the album instead of profiting. The deficit increases as more and more people talk themselves into thinking that there's nothing wrong with stealing music.
We tour our asses off in a losing battle to try to not only get enough money to make a new record but pay off the debts that shouldn’t be there from the last one.
I don’t care what it is you do for a living if someone takes your labor without compensation you will eventually have no choice but to stop and buses don't run on dreams. No, downloading is not a "necessary evil" I have absolutely no idea why our governments allow the rampant downloading of IP - music, software, movies, and games which will eventually crush the entirety of the entertainment industry (which makes up around a third of our economy). There are multiple effective methods of almost completely stopping the theft but no attempt at all has been made to implement them since politicians around the world refuse to cooperate on this very global problem.

13. In closing, what does the future hold for HURT?
There’s only one way to find out.

14. Anything else you’d like to add or tell us?
Every day is a gift, even the dark ones. I have not forgotten how lucky I am to get to do what I do and I will continue to do my best in hopes that it doesn’t end. I am so grateful for my little role in so many people’s lives.

And that's it folks. I want to thank Tom and J. Loren for not only agreeing to this interview, but for being so friendly and accomodating. I hope you've all enjoyed reading it as much I did!

Follow Citizen X Reviews on Facebook.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Gig Review: Sonic Syndicate - The Roadhouse, Manchester - 06/12/09

It’s not often that the first band of the night, especially when it’s a local band, turn out to be this good, but it’s safe to say that Obsessive Compulsive (7) blew me away tonight. Half an hour of gloomy, alt-metal Manchester quintet is enough to seriously impress me and leave me wanting more. Most female fronted bands don’t get the respect they deserve, often seen as somehow not on par with their male fronted counterparts, but with the air of confidence and self assurance shown by lead singer Kelii Compulsive, I don’t think that’ll be a problem for this band. Such is her confidence and stage presence that I’m reminded of a young Tairrie B or Aimee Echo. Obsessive Compulsive will be releasing their debut album in the first half of 2010 and I, for one, can not wait!

Second on tonight’s bill are London’s The Defiled (8), a band who, it seems, should be sponsored by Jägermeister, given the amount that is being drunk on stage during this set. Despite a crowd that seems to have gone to sleep, The Defiled manage to put on a blistering set in their allotted half hour, giving it all they’ve got despite the half empty venue. The Defiled’s unique brand of aggressive synth injected metal is one that really appeals to me and their live performance simply serves to back up what’s heard on their current EP. The future should hold big things for this band.

And so with the UK having been represented by two of the best bands currently on the underground metal scene, it’s time for the Swede’s to show us what they’ve got. The crowd seems to wake up slightly as Sonic Syndicate (8) hit the stage. This is first UK headlining tour, so it’s probably been a while since they’ve had to play for such small crowds (more use to playing support slots of 8,000 people in their native Sweden.) Nether the less they put on a good show, putting plenty of energy in to their show and doing their best to get the crowd going, which appears to pay off as by the 4th song the crowd seem to have woken up a bit. Now, I said it was the turn of the Swede’s, but as many of you will know, there is one English member in the band now. Nathan J Briggs, formally of Shrewsbury’s The Hollow Earth Theory, is currently handling lead vocal duties in Sonic Syndicate and with several of his former band mates, flat mates and various friends in the crowd, tonight is somewhat of a homecoming for him and it shows in his performance, as even with a sore throat he still gives it his all and puts on an excellent show. The crowd continue to wake up during the set but never get quite as excited as you’d expect, maybe it’s ‘cause a Sunday? Or maybe it’s, as The A.V.D. (The Defiled’s keyboardist) says, maybe it’s just ‘cause this crowd sucks. Either way, Sonic put on a decent show, finishing on Jack of Diamonds and everyone seems content as they leave the venue.

Overall gig rating: 8/10. A good gig, with a lot of promise shown by the two English bands on the bill. If you want to check out any of the bands, you can find them here:
Obsessive Compulsive: Myspace, Facebook
The Defiled: Myspace, Facebook
Sonic Syndicate: Myspace, Facebook

EXCLUSIVE Interview with J. Loren from HURT

Hey guys,
I was honoured and privileged to get an interview with J. Loren Wince, the lead singer of one of my favourite bands, HURT. I took the opportunity to ask him questions on a wide range of subjects, so wide in fact that I’ve decided to split the interview in to two parts, the first is below and the second will be posted this Wednesday (9th December.)

Hope you enjoy it!


Part 1:

1. You released your 5th studio album, 'Goodbye to the Machine' this April, on your manager's label, Amusement Recordings. How did this compare to releasing the previous two albums, which were through (major label) Capitol Records? Did it allow you more creative freedom? Was it harder? Was it more rewarding from a personal point of view?
The volumes were made on our own and then sold to Capitol at cost. This is different from the average major label album because the label was not involved in the albums recording. To be honest, our fans are our only boss and that’s pretty much how it should be from my perspective. Though we were still free to do what we wanted creatively Goodbye to the Machine was actually a much more difficult process because we placed some pretty ridiculous constraints on ourselves like: writing the record in a month, recording it in a month and recording straight to analog, which is much more time consuming. I did not find the experience rewarding in the slightest. In fact, it nearly broke my spirit and greatly contributed to my voluntary stay at a mental health facility immediately after its completion. Though I commend our ambition, I think it was ultimately a haughty and prideful endeavour that I regret going along with. There was too much left undone and I have a hard time accepting that. Besides, we know we can actually play and perform without the help of modern recording magic - it’s just the kind of band we have always been and I believe our fans already knew that before we did such an expensive demonstration.

2. How did the writing and recording process of 'Goodbye to the Machine' compare to those of 'Vol. I' & 'Vol. II'?
It didn’t really compare at all. Everything was destined to be different from the start.

3. I've heard you're planning on writing new material in 2010? 'Goodbye to the Machine' came out in 2009. 'Vol. I' was released in 2006 with 'Vol. II' following in 2007. Is this going to be your cycle for recording or is it just a coincidence?
Purely coincidence. As of today we have about 6 brand new album worthy songs recorded in the demo stage and hundreds of unrecorded tracks waiting for their time to shine. It’s mainly a combination of waiting on business side of the sluggish music industry and putting together simpatico material that keeps us from releasing an album every 6 months or so. We love to write.

4. Do you regret not touring more on 'Vol. I'?
We actually toured fairly heavily on Vol.1 I just don’t think as many people cared back then since it was our breakthrough into the national scene.

5. In 2008 you re-mastered and re-released ‘The Consumation’ as 'The Re-consumation', how did this come about?
I always loved that album, as quirky as it is, it was a very honest endeavour and fans of the band started tracking it down and purchasing it from its only supplier who was a shop owner in my native state of Virginia. This made me happy that people cared that much. But then I was confronted by a fan who asked me why I charged them $190.00 for the album. It was then that I found that apparently our fans were being taken advantage of and worse yet thinking that it was us who were doing so. I gathered all the original files that were left of "The Consumation" Not just the finished CD, but the virgin tracks from back in the day and remixed and sequenced the record personally and quite painstakingly again but this time with a little bit more of a professional know how (since I had no idea what I was doing when I originally recorded the album.) We asked a favour from Big Bass Brian at Burnie Grumman Mastering in Hollywood and he re-mastered the album for us at no cost. I could honestly say the "Re-Consumation" album sounded as good as it could and should so we put it up for sale for like 16$ which is the average price of a CD over here and tried to make it abundantly clear that this was an old album which was not to be an introduction to the band and that pretty much took care of that.

6. In 2007 you released 'The Black Market EP', a collection of live, acoustic and unreleased tracks. How was this received by the fans? Do you have any plans to do similar EPs in the future?
Most fans love it. It has some live, some acoustic and some songs that never made the Volumes. I remember, when I got into Pearl Jam I collected everything they had just for the hell of it. I was never disappointed by the CD's because I collected them just to get a different side of a band I liked and plus, It was way cooler than beanie babies.

7. A fair number of songs on your records have been acoustic tracks and you're known for doing acoustic renditions of your electric songs. Have you considered recording an album/EP of all-new, all acoustic material?
Strongly considered. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens one day.

8. You're well known for having a strong touring ethic. How extensively have you been touring in support of 'Goodbye to the Machine'? Have you had many days off this year?
The touring on this record has not been as extensive as the last two. The guys are getting some badly overdue home time in and meeting up occasionally to write and record demos.

9. Are you done touring for the year now? What are your plans for the holiday?
I plan to work on new material over the holidays. I basically live to work.

10. Is it hard touring as much as you do with HURT?
Yes, it is exhausting. Your body begins to revolt at the constant abuse but I believe that’s what separates the zealots from the hobbyists.

11. Have there ever been times in the band's career when you've considered giving it all up and working in an office?
Yes, I hate to admit that I had considered quitting for the first time recently. But it was not an office I would have gone to. The constant and endearing letters and support from our fans which at that particularly bad time was read to me by my manager gave me the strength to fight again.
You guys (the fans) might never know what a profound effect you have on my life.

12. HURT doesn’t seem to have had much of a presence in the UK. Is this simply because you've been concentrating on the US? Or have there been other factors limiting your exposure over here?
Capitol did a piss-poor job of most overseas business when it came to HURT along with their many other shortcomings and we have not yet accumulated the kind of money it takes to basically start again across the pond. It is however a priority and we know we have some awesome European fans out there that I’m very interested to meet.

13. I remember I personally discovered HURT one day when I was watching SCUZZ back in 2006 and saw the video to 'Rapture', but I only ever saw it played that once and that seems to have been the only time I've seen HURT get mainstream exposure over here. Do you have any plans to change that? Would you like to break in to the UK market in the future?
That was the only time it was played and that was a short period. Almost every British fan we have was because of just a couple plays on SCUZZ.
I’d love to get the tunes out over there or at least let folks know that we exist but I don’t exactly know how.

14. If so, can we expect a HURT tour in the UK or Europe anytime soon?
Not in the immediate future but we are very mindful of u guys.

End of part 1.
Remember to check back this Wednesday for part two!

Gig Review: Severenth - Frog & Nightingale, Chester - 05/11/09

Tonight I got invited to a local gig to see a couple of bands I’ve previously only heard on record. Now, I normally don’t bother going to many local pub gigs as it’s very rare to find local talent worth watching, but as it turns out, tonight I was in for a surprise.

First up were Wrexham band Taste the Blood (3) who are proof of why I don’t normally bother going to this sort of gig. Sloppy playing, poorly written songs, a singer who seems to be in the wrong sort of band and a guitarist who wants to be Zakk Wylde (seriously, a BLS shirt, Zakk Custom Gibson and using pinched harmonics every other note do not make you a good guitarist.) Sounding like a bad version of a Black Label Society (no surprise there) / (modern) SOiL hybrid, Taste the Blood should definitely spend a lot more time in their garage practicing before the venture out to subject the general public to their musical styling’s again.

Next up were Arceye (7), a band I’ve heard a lot about and having given their new record a few spins, was very keen to see what they could do live. I was not disappointed. It seems tonight Arceye were in a league of their own. Managing to combine the technical brilliance found on their album with a brutality that can only be witnessed live, as well as a tightness of playing that is rarely found on the pub gig scene, Arceye delivered a knock out set, even if they were limited to a meagre 30 minutes. Definitely a band to watch out for the future, if you get the chance to see them live, take it!

And so, finally, we get to the band that most of the people are here tonight to see: Severenth (5). They seem to keep the crowd entertained, evening getting a mosh pit for the title track from their new album, The Age of Paranoia. For me though, this just doesn’t cut it. The sound is muddy and whilst the lead singer’s screaming is decent enough, his singing leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t deny that there will be those out there who’ll love Severenth’s particular brand of metal and they have a look that could undoubtedly take them far, it’s just not for me.

Overall gig rating: 6/10. For £3 there really wasn’t a lot to complain about here. If you want to check out the bands for yourself you can find them at:
Arceye - Myspace , Facebook
Severenth - Myspace, Facebook

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Album Review: Portal - Swarth

This is not music. This is sheer, shit-yourself horror. Remember the first time you watched Hellraiser? Well the first time I put on the new album by Australian death metal giants, Portal, it was a similar experience. There are no listener friendly grooves or hooky rhythms here, this is pure demonic sonic torture.

Normally I'd try and pick out individual tracks to discuss and tell you about. That task is simply impossible with Swarth. It would be something akin to trying to describe the sensation of having rusty nails hammered in to your ears.

What Portal have managed to achieve with this latest release is, at least for me, to help restore faith in what death metal can and should be. This is music for art's sake, not for the sake of shifting records.

If you think you've got the stomach for this album, then definitely pick up a copy, but be warned: this album is most definitely not for the faint of heart.

Album rating: 8/10
For fans of: Horror films, insane asylums and the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch
Best tracks: n/a

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Citizen X's Top 10 Albums of 2009

It seems about this time of year every man and his dog seems to want to tell the world what his favourite albums of the last twelve months have been and, well, I'm not exception.

So, what follows is, in no order and with brief explanation, my personal Top 10 Albums of 2009.

Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Ok, so maybe there is a little order to the list. This album goes at the top because it is, by far, the best album I had the pleasure of listening to this year. If you haven't heard it yet, I strongly recommend you pick a copy up and give it a spin!

The Atlas Moth - A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky
Chances are, you've never heard of The Atlas Moth and that's a shame. This was one of the best debut albums I've heard in a long time. Go check out the review I posted recently.

Hurt - Goodbye to the Machine
New album from my favourite band, again probably most of you haven't heard of them. A slight move away from the heavier songs off their previous two records, but still an excellent album.

Týr - By the Light of the Northern Star
To me, Týr represent the best in what is fast become an over saturated 'Folk Metal' scene and ...Northern Star is another example of how to perfectly blend traditional folk with traditional metal.

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge Alice in Chains fan. They also know my pet hatred of replacement singers. It might come as a surprise then just how much I love this album. From the second I heard the first single, 'A Looking In View', I was convinced they could pull this off and the day the album came out I played it none-stop for a solid twelve hours. Just goes to show what you can do with a bit of respect for what you've done, what you've lost and finding the right person to fill that void.

Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us
A surprising return to form, from one of the UK’s best bands. That the new songs hold up live alongside classics from Gothic and Icon is testament to the quality of this album.

The Dead Weather - Horehound
I've long been a fan of Jack White and his latest side project did not disappoint!

Chimaira - The Infection
A slower, sludgier offering from Chimaira that has divided their fan base, but it's a direction I personally love!

KISS - Sonic Boom
Another band returning to form, the glam legends follow up to the dismal 'Psycho Circus' is a superb album, with plenty of classic sounding KISS songs to get any party started!

Creed - Full Circle
Yeah, ok, I'm going to get a lot of stick for this (I can already imagine the look of disappointment on Pete's face when he reads this.) But you know what? I don't care. I don't care that none of my friends like Creed and I care even less that none of them have even ever bothered to actually listen to them. I love this band and always have done. So, needless to say I was excited to hear they'd got back together. This new album does not disappoint! It seamlessly combines the best aspects of both Creed's earlier heaviness of My Own Prison with the more melodic and radio friendly sounds of Weathered, whilst having hints of Stapp's solo work.

So, there we have it, the 10 sonic highlights of my 2009. I hope you agree with some of my choices, I also hope you disagree with some (after all, life'd be boring if we all liked the same things!) and I sincerely hope there's some albums on here you haven't listened to and that you'll give them a chance before the year's out!


Gig Review: Taste of Chaos (Killswitch Engage / In Flames) - Manchester Academy - 02/12/09

Well here’s something you certainly don’t see every day: the first band is only half way through it’s set and already the venue is well packed out. I’ll have to admit that, for once, I regret not catching the entirety of the set from Maylene & the Sons of Disaster (7), because from what I did see, these guys sure know how to rock! Bringing a distinctly metal feel to a down-in-the-bayou groove, Maylene sound something akin to Lynyrd Skynyrd, run through a fuzz pedal and turned up to eleven, complete with a tri-attack guitar set-up! Definitely a band to keep an eye on for the future!

Next up with have New York metalcorer’s Every Time I Die (5). Now, I’m not going to lie to you, at this point I was tempted to just go and hang out in the bar. I’ve never really liked anything I’ve heard from ETID but I decided to stick it out and see if they were any better live. They weren’t. Only a small percent of the crowd was really even paying attention and these were mostly 13 year old boys just looking for an excuse to start a circle pit. At one point front man Keith Buckley tells the crowd to “sing along if you know the words”, though exactly how one would sing along to this sort of noise is beyond me. Here’s hoping his new side project with various members from Fall Out Boy and Anthrax produces something slightly less displeasing on the ears.

So after suffering though that, it’s finally time for what I was hoping would be the highlight of the night: In Flames (7). I’m sad to say I was sorely disappointed by them tonight. Don’t get me wrong, they played with their usual clinical precision but there was hardly any interaction with the crowd and a great number of songs were absent from the set (Bullet Ride, Episode 666, Only For the Weak, Trigger to name just a couple.) Nether the less, the crowd greets the band with massive applause and they play enough of their better known tracks to keep most people in the crowd interested. The same group of young lads from Every Time I Die’s set are still starting circle pits, so they’re obviously having fun tonight. And after a somewhat disappointing and far too short set (just 50 minutes) In Flames leave the stage and I can’t help but feel that perhaps they would have been better off on their own headline tour, though they’ll be headlining the upcoming Taste of Chaos dates all across Europe, so maybe the British record buying public are more to blame for the sour taste left in my mouth after this set?

A brief trip to the bar for a drink and a good moan about what was left out of the In Flames set and then it’s back in for tonight’s headliners. The classic ‘Benny Hill’ music airs over the PA (the music that used to play when he was chasing half naked women around. If you don’t know what I’m on about, ask you parents) and it’s a fitting way to start the show, as to rapturous applause, everyone’s favourite clown, Adam D storms on to the stage, resplendent in tuxedo t-shirt (as are the rest of the band) and his trademark headband and cape. I’m going to say something now that might make me unpopular with some of you, but I don’t care: Adam D is an idiot. Simple as, the guy is a moron. He acts like a clown just with less makeup. I’m all for having fun and moving around on stage but this guy lunges around the stage like a spider-monkey on speed. It’s easy to see why the likes of Max Cavalera and Kerry King are so outspoken about his behaviour. That said, Killswitch Engage (7) deliver a perfectly average set, covering all their hits, throwing in a couple of new songs (though I’m sure they know as well as we do that their latest offering was very much sub-par) and even making me leave with a smile as they finish with their rendition of Holy Diver, which drew the biggest crowd reaction of the night and strikes me as a bit sad when the song people are most keen to hear is a cover version.

Overall gig rating: 7/10. Not a bad night’s entertainment, though I really felt that the 3 main bands on the tour did not live up to their billing. Maylene & the Sons of Disaster however were truly a treat to watch and, if for nothing else, tonight was a worth while venture simply to discover this band! You can check them out now on Spotify or their Myspace.