Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Interview with musician ALEX SIGMER by Dave Wolff

Interview with musician ALEX SIGMER

Julia Filchenkova who introduced me to you told me of your extensive body of work, including your published books, your musical recordings, your promotional videos and your tours across Russia. Describe the circumstances under which you started your career.
First of all, I want to greet the American readers. Because of political wars and jerks on both sides of the ocean who threw tons of mud at each other, it is difficult to speak about music. However, my opinion remains the same, that music and art in general is above the mercantile and geopolitical interests of separate categories of citizens. I started a career as a musician in Ladek in 1993, when the country was on its knees. Me and Dmitry Martynov assembled a band called Galaxy M82. Of course, it's funny to listen to these amateur records. But then we did not seem so. In 1995 I joined the army, while he gathered a team whose style cannot be determined until now. It was some hellish mixture of Ozzy Osbourne and Russian punk rock with elements of Russian folklore. Horror in one word. When I returned from the army (to join was the duty of all men in Russia), I collected his first adequate part. Six months later I joined the black metal band Miktlantekutly, which released two full-length albums. In 1999, I gathered a new group. The basic concept laid in the foundation is consistent chanting and personalized space sounds. I have accumulated quite a number of songs on the theme of non-space, and the band recorded two albums. Now we’re going back to basics and beginning to work on cosmic songs. For our years of hard work, we have not been able to write great conceptual fairy tales. In support of the revival of the idea I spent an eighteen-month tour across Russia. The performances were in Kaliningrad, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Arkhangelsk, Cheboksary and many other places. Then I put the play in my novel "All The Sins Of Mankind." This year I had to change jobs because the heads of local administration Yulia Vdovichenko and Ms. Ryabikova created intolerable working conditions. Despite this, I continue to work on creative projects.

About that eighteen month tour you mentioned in which you visited Kaliningrad, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Arkhangelsk, Cheboksary, do you have any tales to tell about fans you met or how your material was received?
Frankly, I do not know where I am known in such remote regions as Kamchatka, but they received me warmly. I cannot select any place separately. In all of them I was given a lot of time and attention. In Vladivostok I went down to the underground bunker Primorsky Territory. In Chuvashia National I was treated to kakayshurpi soup, in the Urals I was treated to dumplings were treated in the Urals and in Rostov-on-Don I was treated to barbecue and hemp salad. Nice to know that I now have a lot of friends not only in Russia but worldwide.

In what ways, if any, has the political system in Russia had an influence on your songwriting and lyric writing?
The political situation in Russia in the 90s when I was growing up was difficult. This could not affect my perception of the world, where warring and daily killings were a reality. By a happy coincidence, at this time in my life there was a person who radically changed my inner world: my stepfather. He was from the capitalist world, which seemed to post-Soviet teenagers something unusual. At the time I started writing my first poems, which were filled with western mysticism. Now I write less political lyrics. Our country has become stable. Of course, the confrontation between the two superpowers remains, but at the policy level. I sincerely hope that the Americans think so too. In my novel, of course, there is plaque policy. And the verses are sometimes obtained with exaggerated patriotism. However, I am sure all of this is from the heart. I myself have always been in politics, indirectly. It puts into practice various patriotic designs.

How long were you serving in the army? Do you remember many of your experiences from that period in your life?
Under the law of the Russian Federation, all boys aged eighteen are required to serve in the army for two years. I was no exception. This time, the formation of me as a person, as a man, as a patriot of the motherland. I got there via the military profession. I was a radio operator. I finished the service with the rank of sergeant. While serving in the army I was a shy and modest boy. but somewhere inside I felt the maturing musical maniac. During my time in the service I met with Roma Azarov who recorded an amateur record. We recorded directly in the unit, secretly from the commanders. However, it later became known to all and I was sent to the brig. In general, my time spent on military service was an important period in my life. I became independent, realized a lot of things and realized that music is something I cannot betray and will not betray you. It helped me to cope with the lack of understanding of others.

Do you have any poems you wrote during the 90s? Have they been published anywhere, or do you plan to publish them?
I published them along with some short stories in a collection I released the year before. Now I find them a little naive, though demonic. Here is an excerpt: "I go into the dark forest, and get drunk out of their graves. In the mist, the dark night of the spirit begins to wander terrible. Satan."

What was the title of the book your poems and fiction were collected for? How much of your work was collected for publication in it? Are copies of this release still available for purchase?
I produced the book in limited editions. All of the copies have already sold out. I plan to re-release the edition next year. The book includes poems from 1990 to 2003. I don’t even remember how many of them were released. The book includes several stories. One of them has characters much like members of the LGBT community. It discloses the savory side of human relationships. To keep the intrigue, I will not reveal the plot.

Describe the storyline of All The Sins Of Mankind, the setting and characters, and the time period it takes place in?

It happens in the new Russia, in a fictional town. A group of young people commit a bad deed; they inadvertently killed the cat during a children's game. After that things become tragic. One of the men crushed the poison of loneliness and considers himself the supreme arbiter. He starts to process the other young people, breaking their destinies. As a result, one commits suicide, the other goes crazy, and the third goes to the monastery and the rest of his life suffers. The leitmotif I wanted to convey to the reader was the evil side of human nature. You need to be alert. Evil on a universal scale is not necessarily associated with wars and natural disasters. The seeds of evil may take root in small towns and villages, poisoning the light of life and vulgarizing the concept of enjoying life.

How long had you and Dmitty Martynov known one another before you worked together in musical projects? What made you want to form a band together?
I knew from an early age. We are neighbors who live in the same house. He withdrew from the music business as he has a family with two children. We rarely see each other. When I returned from the army we participated together in one project which has not appeared on stage. The group was created spontaneously. He played guitar and sang songs by Viktor Tsoi. When we talked about our work, he said he had a song. I offered to write them down. We read the magazine "Model Construction" and Dima soldered all sorts of things for a guitar by the schemes of the magazine. It was a fixed idea. Our only alternative was to drink vodka with peers, engage in robbery or go to the gym. We chose communication at home and making music. By the way, we were in the same college and received the profession of chef and confectioner. I still love to cook.

Describe the music you and Dmitry worked on for Galaxy M82. How did the two of you record the material?
Only the master copy is preserved. It was recorded on audiocassette. In the 90s studio recording was made in makeshift conditions. We did not have drums; instead we used the trunk of an accordion, tin cans and the twelfth volume of the collected works of Lenin. Now, when I decide to take a break from the stage, I plan to digitize these records and reissue all my albums professionally. I’ll do so next year. I need to fix my body, soul and brains. Americans invented whiskey, and now I cannot think of Black Label. This album had nothing to do with the space theme. The songwriter was Dmitry. It was actually a copy of a popular Russian group known as KINO. The microphone was attached by adhesive tape to a MD-200. We recorded while our parents were at work and we skipped college.

Describe the two full length releases that were released by Miktlantekutly. How did you progress over those albums?
The first full-length album features classic black metal, with black metal vocals and relevant paganistic text, a frantic pace and atmospheric keyboards. This is what characterizes this album. The second album has become closer in sound to Samael. On it, we changed our sound and lyrics, and I was on vocals. It was after this album I decided to build the project with the space orientation in the lyrics. Although the thread of paganism sometimes slips into it.

Did the two releases of Miktlantekutly receive any press outside Russia?
If you count Belarus and Ukraine, there are strong pagan traditions so the first album was a success. The second album gravitated to industrial so accordingly it was a different kind of audience.

Did you have your own studio when you and Dmitry recorded? How many studios exist in your area where bands can record their material? At what point were you able to acquire a drum kit to record with?
Dmitry and I recorded our album in makeshift conditions. Smolensk used to have two studios, where bands could record. In nearby towns; Bryansk, Kaluga, Orel; we could not afford to record in the studio. Now in Smolensk there are seven studios at different purses, all insanely expensive. There we recorded one track, A Sinful Love, at the most affordable budget available to young musicians. There are studios that specialize in heavy sound, but I do not like the sound engineers’ approach in Smolensk. So I recorded in other cities. The album "Na Nebo" I wrote in Bryansk and we stylized the sound at the end of the 90s. The album "Morgue Refrigerators" we recorded in Mogilev/Belarus. I needed a modern sound and it is the European approach in the studio Arzamas 16 that I liked. The sound engineer was Denis Manionak. I purchased drums in 2003 because my main project involved the use of electronic drums. I believe that musicians must buy their own tools rather than wait until the group leader does it for him.

Describe the local black metal scenes in Russia. Over the years I have been in contact with a couple of bands here and there, but I imagine you know much more.

I don’t gravitate too much toward black metal, but in view that I played a long time in this direction, we kept in touch with many of the pagan groups in Russia and abroad. This direction is well developed in the Republic of Karelia, St. Petersburg and Moscow. There are many national black metal bands locally based in Yakut, Pomeranian, Chuvash, Tatar and so on. In the Urals and Siberia black metal is not as popular. In the Far East they listen to alternative. In South Russia it’s rap and pop. Rock there is a rarity. Americans would find it difficult to understand Russia without visiting it. Many regions here have their own musical preferences. I have already talked about Karelia which borders on Scandinavia. There are strong pagan traditions in heavy music there.

What time period are the pagan traditions in Russia based on? How much study have you done on Russian paganism?
Pagan tradition in Russian music is not always related to black metal. It should be borne in mind that ancient Muscovy and Smolensk professed polytheism. I never was fond of Paganism or Satanism. I like Orthodoxy. Of course, I have many friends who are Gentiles. I am familiar with the whole clan in Russia who worship the ancient gods but I do not have anything to do with them.

Explain how you began to include the space theme in your work. What were the earliest results like?
I took an exam in geography and the first song was born in my head about the sun. I sat down to write the concept. In addition to the solar system there were written works dedicated to stars and other objects such as the asteroid Eros, Polaris, Pollux Castro etc. Fans met this material with enthusiasm. Still, many of us are waiting for the execution of these songs, and I can tell you we will soon return to the stage with this material.

How many releases with a space theme do you have out altogether? Are you working on anything new?
At the moment there are three releases with a space theme. The debut album Deimos, the live album Cesium Rhymes and the album Saved The Day. Most of these albums have instrumental compositions. The first and second albums had a lot of experimentation. The third space album is quite independent. Now we are working on recording a full-length album of the solar system, including the satellites of some planets. All can be found on the band's website and social networks. However, the recording quality is deliberately understated. We are currently reworking the site.

How soon do you expect your next full length recording to be released? How do you plan to advertise and promote it?
I plan to release the full version of the album next year. I think that in six months I should start to look for a company that will produce this material. If the conditions are not suitable I will be releasing it independently.

Where outside Russia would you want to perform in the future? Does this include playing shows in the United States?
It all depends on the proposals. I am pleased to be delivered in the United States. If the situation is stabilized. I will be playing in the Ukraine.

Alex Sigmer official website
Alex Sigmer on Facebook
Alex Sigmer on VK

-Dave Wolff

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

CD Review: MOURNING "Mourning The New Dawn" (Ossuary Industries) by Dave Wolff

Mourning The New Dawn
Ossuary Industries
I just reviewed an older EP from this band (Blinded By Hate) for Obscure Chaos zine; Bill Pope mailed me two CDs in trade for print copies of AEA. The material on Blinded By Hate was recorded late in 2004 when extreme metal operated under a far different set of rules than it does today. In 2004 we had websites to keep up with bands, zines and labels but social media was still relatively new to the game and Internet downloading was not nearly the topic of discussion it has become now. Also, extreme metal was just starting to be mass promoted in magazines and music television, and metal culture hadn’t begun to experience the sort of dumbing down of the latter 00s. Bands and fanzine editors in the 80s and 90s were known to be intelligent and well-spoken in interviews. Bill and Ted/Beavis and Butthead were known as parodies and not the perceived behavioral template of metal fans. Zines like The Grimoire and Endemoniada went a long way to breaking the airheaded rocker stereotype, displaying relevance and knowledge. Mourning has retained more than enough from that time in their overall attitude, and this CD shows as much, Where Blinded By Hate was a black-death metal crossover, The New Dawn leans closer to brutal death metal. I thought the former recording had better drum production but the general feel on this release is darker and more malevolent in the DM way so to speak. There’s more double bass here and in songs like Mourning The New Dawn and Human Extinction the relentless speed and time changes flow together more smoothly. I should also mention the King/Hanneman-esque guitar solos in The Grave I Dug For You, a bit of a Slayer tribute to conclude the EP with. Hearing that I felt transported to the days of Reign In Blood; the song itself resonates of Slayer influence without sounding like a direct copy of the band, which is something that unfortunately happened a little too much in the 80s. -Dave Wolff

1. Mourning the New Dawn
2. Eve of Annihilation
3. Dark Autumn
4. Red Rivers of Babylon
5. Human Extinction
6. The Grave I Dug for You

Monday, August 24, 2015

Interview with Austin Hurd of STOP SIGN RIOT by Dave Wolff

Interview with Austin Hurd of STOP SIGN RIOT

Some time ago Stop Sign Riot did an interview for Obscure Chaos zine, which can be read at its online blog. How did you become acquainted with publisher Kat Chaos and what led to the interview?
We met her through online promotion as we are always trying to get our name out there. In fact, we haven't played a show in almost a year but we still get fans on all of our social media pages every week, which blows my mind. She ended up putting together an interview on Facebook. Due to scheduling the only person from the band that was able to do it was our former drummer who left late last year. 

How much information was shared about the band during her interview with you? How much promotion do you usually do to attract new fans on social media?
The interview didn't get as indepth as we would have liked since it was only one person answering the questions, some of which he could not answer. Mostly our style, writing, practice, shows, and influences. Usually we are sharing, posting, talking to people and basically just hustling trying to get the word out. The last few months we actually haven't done any promoting, since we've been on a break.

Was Obscure Chaos the band’s first live interview? How much more would you have wanted to reveal in the course of this interview?
It was, and we would have liked to have gotten into our style and how we morphed into it. Also where we came from, on an artistic level and a personal level.

How did the band come to choose Stop Sign Riot as their name? The story behind this was touched on a little in the Obscure Chaos interview; can you shed some more light on the subject?
I was with a former guitarist/vocalist having a writing session, and we ended up finding a stop sign in his dumpster. At the same time we had been bouncing name ideas back and forth. As a joke I suggested Stop Sign Riot, and it stuck.

I read the band has been searching for a new drummer since your previous drummer left. Can you tell the readers how the search has gone so far?
We have been searching for a new drummer and actually have not had very good luck finding one, which is weird because we have a lot of talented drummers here. Our former drummer decided to part ways with us due to personal reasons and creative differences. He left in the middle of our break, which has extended a lot longer than we originally planned. However, we have been working on a few of our songs acoustically and are in the process of recording them.

Why did the band decide to go on a break from playing live? How long had you intended the break to be at first?
We practiced every week for about five hours every time, on top of doing live shows and recording in the studio. Our former drummer lost his house in a tornado before we wrapped up the recording, and some new jobs and schedules were kind of stressing everybody out, so we decided to take a break. At first, it was only supposed to be a couple of months, then we just kinda took some time to think about everything.

Does the band usually do interviews for print zines or web zines? Which do you prefer reading between the two and why?
As of right now we have only done webzines, so I'm not sure about the print ones. But any interview that lets us connect with people is what we like.

What webzines have the band been interviewed for? Were they based in the US or outside the country? How much more exposure and fan support resulted from these interviews?
The only other one we did wasn't technically an interview, but we did have a couple pages of us covered for Omaha Fuse Weekly. It got us a headlining show at a local venue and definitely helped us get some other gigs.

Is Omaha Fuse Weekly a local paper from your area? What did the paper say about the band and how many shows did it help you schedule?
It is an online magazine, here in Omaha, and it helped us get two or three shows set up, by making us a featured band of the month.

How much material has the band released? Have you been placing ads for a new drummer? What new songs are you working on, and how do you go about composing without a drummer? Where is the new material being recorded?
We released a demo out of my home studio called "Runaway", and a single we did at a local studio called "Zombies". Both are on our Reverbnation page. We had six songs that we played at our shows, and a seventh one we were working on when he left. We have used online ads, and word of mouth. Right now our guitarist Blake and I have been working on acoustic versions of "Runaway" and "Zombies" that sound pretty good. Nothing "new" at the moment, as far as writing new material, but our writing style really only requires guitar and vocals, so writing is still business as usual. We are recording everything in my basement studio, which gives us the freedom to create without feeling rushed.

How much feedback do you get from fans and listeners on Facebook and Reverbnation? How many of your songs are previewed at your Reverbnation profile? Do people take the time to give you detailed feedback on your Facebook profile?
We get some pretty good feedback across all the sites, mostly Reverbnation where we have a really old, not so decent demo version of "Runaway" as well as our studio version of "Zombies." There is also some live versions and sound clips from some of our shows.

What are the lyrical concepts and verses of Runaway and Zombies? Who wrote the words to these songs?
I actually wrote all the lyrics for our songs, and I'm very proud of how the band was able to form the music around them. "Runaway" is kind of a love story, about two people who just want to be together, so they run off to be by themselves. The verses kind of play out like a movie, telling a story about why they are running away, and the chorus is the overall message behind that. The chorus for that is a lot of fun to play live, and has a strong meaning, "It's never easy when you're running away/But we got each other, baby that's okay/Don't wanna go back/Your home is the highway/’cause everyone loves you more/When you're a runaway." "Zombies" is just a song about zombies. Although, a couple people have pointed out a political comparison, as we are all zombies of the system. So, a different meaning for everyone, but the opening verse goes, "My brains are their desire/I try to run but I'm too damn tired/I cannot go any farther than this/I fall to the ground as they bite my flesh" which I thought was really twisted and fit the song I wanted to write at the time. It was actually written a couple of years before the band got together, right around 2006.

I can see how people would interpret Zombies as being a political song. How long have you been a fan of zombies when it comes to horror movies?
Since I was about five years old, and I saw the remake of "Night Of The Living Dead" which we actually used a sound clip from the original movie in the song.

Which line or lines were sampled from NOTLD and why were they chosen? How do you feel about the zombie genre having gone mainstream since the 2000s?
There was the radio broadcast about the dead coming back to life that we chose to use as the intro. At the very end, we used the line, "They're dead, they're all messed up." We chose that because we thought if fit for the ending. I love the zombie genre going mainstream; The Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows right now. It's amazing how much it's exploded into the main spotlight of entertainment.

In what ways does The Walking Dead expand on the original movies? What do you think of the movie World War Z? Do you prefer the movie version or the book?
I'm old school, so for me, The Walking Dead hit the nail on the head when it comes to how a zombie should act or look like. I've never seen World War Z; the trailer turned me off; and I have not read the book. The biggest turnoff for me was that the zombies were running. If I'm in the zombie apocalypse, I'm already outnumbered, and they don't get tired, so I'm already at a disadvantage. If they are running, I have no chance. True zombies are slow, which gives me a chance, and makes it more realistic for me.

Discuss the band’s other songs and what the lyrics were inspired by. What fan feedback have they received so far?
"Murderzine" is about all the killing going on right now, and the media cramming it down our throats, it gets people moving at the shows. "Suicidenial" is about not being allowed to go out that way, nothing in life is that bad that you need to resort to suicide. "Truthful Lies" is just a bad relationship, where the lies have been told so much, it's just the truth. We have a really good breakdown at the very end, which the crowds love, really heavy. My personal favorite is "Tattoo Heroin" which is about addiction. I had just gotten done reading Nikki Sixx's book, "The Heroin Diaries" and came up with the name out of the blue, and the song just came out of that. It's a faster song, pretty heavy, with an acoustic breakdown, and the lyrics have a lot of word play, similar to Nikki Sixx's writing style.

Was there anything in particular Murderzine was inspired by, or is the song a general statement? Why does the media sensationalize it as much as it does in your view?
It's just a general statement, with everything going on right now, it could not be about just one thing. Personally, I think the media sensationalizes it the way they do to make a profit. That's what the world is about, the almighty dollar. The more people watch, the higher their ratings, the more money they make. At least that's how I view it, when I hear the news covering a terrorist attack in another country, but can't hear about something good in my own city.

Granted the media wants to gain financially, which is the reason I turn to independent news to gather information. If you found an alternative to mainstream news sources that were less about sensationalism, what would you seek out?
Honestly, I don't mind that the media covers this stuff, I just think a lot of it could be a two minute filler story, instead of flooding everything with a two week report. News is news, but how it's presented is what's important, which is why I hate opinionated news shows. If your job is to bring the news to the world, don't bring your opinion with it.

What’s your view of television programs like The Jon Stewart Show and Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect?
Actually, I've never seen them, I don't have cable, but, I have friends that have watched them, and they would rather watch those, than the other guys.

What about Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries prompted you to write the lyrics of Tattoo Heroin? Why do you think so many musicians use hard drugs in the midst of their careers?
Honestly, I wasn't trying to write a song about it, it just kind of happened, which is why it's one of my favorites. But, reading it, let me see the world through his eyes, and having experience in character acting, I put myself into his shoes, and wrote about the feelings that I thought he was feeling. I think the drug use comes from needing something to fill the void, whether it's to stay awake, fall asleep, numb the pain, depression, or it's just something there that someone offers. I just think it gets out of control. Nikki said it best, "Once you've tasted excess, everything else tastes bland." And for someone with an addictive personality, ease of access, and financial funds to support it, it's easy for someone to fall into that hell.

Do you often read biographies of well-known musicians and artists who had issues with drug use? Name some others you read and remember vividly.
I try to, the one that stands out, was Ozzy Osbourne's book, "I Am Ozzy" which he talked a lot about his drug use. There was a part that he talked about going in to have a colonoscopy, and the knockout drugs didn't work, because he built up such a tolerance over the years.

What bands do the members of Stop Sign Riot cite as influences? How do you draw inspiration from said bands?
My personal favorite is Mötley Crüe, but Ozzy Osbourne is another favorite. Disturbed, Drowning Pool, just too many to list. Blake listens to a lot of different stuff; his riffs remind me of older Black Sabbath, only modernized. He is very diverse, as is Max, who also listens to classical, but we all have a common musical taste that we use to create our own unique style and sound. Which is getting a little bit of a makeover.

Besides Facebook, how many social media sites is the band on? Which of them is currently getting the biggest response?
We are on Twitter, YouTube, and Reverbnation. Not sure which is biggest, but Facebook and Reverbnation are the top two.

How many performance clips can be heard at your Reverbnation page? Were they recorded by the band themselves or people who came to see you? How would you describe the sound quality of these recordings?
I think only a couple, most were recorded by friends of the band, on digital cameras or cell phones, so the quality is not the greatest, but still fun to watch.

How long have you and Blake been working together? Had you known one another before starting the band?
Blake came in in April of 2013. We were doing some lineup changes, he answered our ad and we hired him on the spot.

How many lineup changes has the band underwent since you first got together?
When we first got together, I was the drummer, but my knees and shoulders were causing some issues, and I could not play regularly. During my time behind the kit, we had a guitarist/vocalist, which was replaced by a second guitarist/vocalist. We also had a bass change shortly after we picked the name, which we knew about beforehand. I eventually transitioned into vocals, then our guitarist left, so it was just Max and I working on music, until our former drummer came into the mix. About six months later, Blake came in, and we were solid for about a year and a half, until our drummer left. So, it's been a long road. 

What musical and recording equipment do you have in your basement studio? Was this studio built exclusively by you and does it prove more convenient than renting studio time?
As far as instruments, I have two electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, one electric bass, and a six piece drum set. Equipment wise, we use Sony Acid software to record. I have two mixing boards, a five channel, and a sixteen channel, different pedals, a lot of different microphones, amps, and a PA. Also, our bass player and guitarist have their own gear. I have spent the last eleven years putting this stuff together, and last year, I put foam paneling over the old school wood paneling, so we get a rich sound that has that older sound of acoustics. And it is way more convenient than renting time, because we can record anytime we want, for as long as we want, without having to worry about finances. We are a band on a budget, and not having to worry about how much recording is, lets us concentrate more on the music, and less on time. Plus, if we don't like something, we can spend as much time as we need to make it perfect. And having been to the studio last year, I picked up a bunch of different tricks and techniques that will make the finished product, that much better.

How much did the acoustics in your studio improve when you went from wood paneling to foam? What other tricks and techniques did you learn to improve your recording process?
The wood paneling is still there, the foam was put over it, so it kind of blends the sounds together. Some tricks we learned are microphone placement, and leveling, along with different settings on our recording program.

How have the tricks you leaned with leveling, microphone placing and different recording settings helped you as a band?
Well, we sound better. We sound like a somewhat professional band, instead of a group of guys in the garage making noise.

How much do you hear the differences in your material since you adapted the tricks learned in the studio?
We haven't played in full as a group, but the demo tracks we have recorded sound a lot better than they did a year ago, before we went to the studio.

Over the eleven years you built your studio, how much trial and error did you experience until you found the equipment you and the band feel most comfortable working with?
Oh man, there were countless times, and a lot of stressful, frustrating, and failed attempts to get it just right. Also, learning some tips from a pro at the studio helped me utilize what I have a lot better than before.

Who was this studio pro who offered you tips on running a studio, and what sort of additional advice did he give you?
He was actually our engineer at Rainbow Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska. I don't think he was giving advice or tips, but I would ask why he was doing things the way he did, and he would tell me about how it would help the sound. For example, using two different microphones in the vocal booth, and where to place them to get the most out of the vocals.

Was the band practicing at Rainbow Studios before you decided to build your own studio?
We have always used my studio to practice; we just went to Rainbow to do the single. My studio has been "usable" for years, but now it's something we can actually use as a recording option, not just for demos.

What have you and the band been learning about producing since you began using the studio to record?
Well, we have goals, but at the same time, we have fun, and make music that we want to enjoy listening to. Getting the music the way we want involves the right input settings, making sure the different instruments are all matched and leveled where we want them, and most of all, don't over mix it. Sometimes, less is more, I live by that when writing and recording.

How many albums out there do you feel are overproduced? How much more grounded does the less-is-more approach make the band?
There are a lot of albums that are overproduced, and those are usually the ones that flop the most. If you look back at bands that started in the 80's, their early stuff is raw, flawed, and imperfect, which made them that much better. Fast forward to now, bands are using all this stuff to sound "relevant" when they don't need to. Our former drummer was using my six piece kit, and wanted to hit every drum and cymbal in every song, and then faster and faster. It was ok in certain songs, but not for every song. Start with something basic, and add things where they are needed. Just because you have something, doesn't mean you need to use it all the time. And it's the same with guitar. In "Murderzine" we use a wah effect in couple parts, but we don't use it in anything else.

List some albums that have stood the test of time despite their flaws. Sodom and Bathory are a couple bands that come to mind for their early releases.
Obviously, Mötley Crüe's Too Fast For Love stands out for me. Anything from Black Sabbath's early years, or The Ramones, for that matter.

How do you go about choosing the input settings you want to record and match the level of your instruments?
We started using mono setting which is something I learned at the studio, and leveling is just something I have an ear for. It's not something I learned; I've just always have been able to see that certain things sound off. Even when I listen to a professional album from a top band, I hear things that sound off, and I think, "How did they miss that? I would have tweeked it, or cut that part out, or used a different effect." I call it the producer's curse, because you are always critiquing everything.

Do you know any specific albums that could have had a better production job done?
St. Anger; I can't listen to that thing straight through. The Fallout, from Default, has some things I would have done differently. Ozzy Osbourne's Black Rain, I would have taken out about half of the guitar squeals, I think I heard forty of them, in the first three tracks. It just got annoying after a while. Although that's more of a writing thing, I would have taken them out.

Would you ever consider producing albums somewhere down the road? How professional a job do you think you would do?
Actually, I have done some demo work for a few people, not with the new setup, but it gave me some knowledge on what I'm doing. But yeah, I'd love to get into it more. With my setup, you are not going to get the manufactured sound that you hear from the top bands, but you will get a raw sound, yet, mixed and put together with a quality sound that most people look for.

How soon do you expect to start recording a new full length? If any drummers reading this are interested in contacting you, where can they write?
It would be our first full length, we are going to star recording a couple acoustic singles in the next few weeks, then start on our first EP in the coming months after that. If any drummers are interested, they can contact us on Facebook, ReverbNation, Twitter, YouTube, or email. Facebook is usually the easiest, as we can access that on the go.

-Dave Wolff

Friday, August 21, 2015

Interview with Michael Smith of HAZMAT by Dave Wolff

Interview with Michael Smith of HAZMAT

Hazmat is described as being influenced by horror rock, metal, Goth, hardcore, punk, and hard rock. What led to the band encompassing so many different influences to develop their own sound and doing something original?
It all comes simply from every member in the band having different influences. Our guitarist was a thrash metal head. He was heavily influenced by the thrash bands that came out of the 80s: Exodus, Testament, Metallica, and so forth. Our drummer is straight out of the 80s hair metal bands like Poison, GnR, Faster Pussycat, Jackyl, etc. I grew up on bands like Kiss, Alice Cooper, Tesla and always had my eye on the spectacle if you will. I'm actually probably the most diverse member. I go to hundreds of shows from national acts to local unsigned bands. I really find a way to appreciate the art of different genres and I love being entertained. Give me a show and I'm your fan. We have had what seems to be a revolving door on bassists, but with each bass player we have just added a uniqueness to our sound. Dave (guitar), Bill (drums) and I (vocals) are truly like brothers; we have spent seventeen years making noise together no matter what our taste in music, no matter what life events have happened through it all we have been there together and we just mix our lives, musical tastes, and what have you into our music and stories to share with whoever cares to listen. We are all also very big movie fans and yes we differ in movie tastes also but we all have a great fondness of horror and the macabre so it shows in our stage show and our music. We have been fortunate over the years to meet a lot of great people in the industries of film and music and have worked on movie soundtracks and worked with several people in the industry on their movie projects. Our favorite shows to play are the conventions those shows are a blast not only because you look out and see a [Star Wars] stormtrooper moshing in the crowd but those guys are the most dedicated and genuine fans you could ever have.

What is the band’s complete lineup at the time of this writing, and does each members’ input vary from song to song when the band is composing material?
Our current lineup today is me, Michael Smith the lead vocalist, David Tomlinson on lead guitar, Bill Beck on drums, and on bass we are going through a transition with Jeremy McCary stepping in as our permanent bassist; as he gets his show legs ready a great friend of ours a guitarist/vocalist from the band, Dallas Hollow, has been filling in on bass for us. As far as the writing of each song, it can be a thought that comes to mind or some earth shaking world event. They could be something we saw in a movie and wanted to write about or something that happens in our lives. I guess we all have scars no matter big or small; we choose to write about ours as well as our laughs. Every member has input into each song and each song can have a different meaning for each of us as well as the listener. An example is our song I Wanna Believe. I wrote the lyrics about a past relationship but I've had people say they have related to it for a passing of a loved one, a song about friendship, about religion, and even about aliens. I guess a song is yours to use how you need it to. There has never been just one writer in this band; every song starts with an idea and it goes through the Hazmatic meat grinder. By the end it may turn out to be a completely different thought. Each of us have come in with ideas. Bill may come in to our band room and say ‘hey I've got this idea’ and he wrote this verse or even a complete song. By the time it is finished half the lyrics may be changed and Dave may have written a rhythm that is far from the idea.

Describe the process by which the band fused all your different influences together in the beginning.
In the beginning Hazmat was a straight thrash band period. I joined and we had a guitarist and drummer that wanted the vocals pretty much just screamed and spoken loudly. No harmony, no actual singing. Dave and I got along so well and both had a different vision and the drummer at the time had to quit the band for personal reasons so in stepped Bill. The three of us became like brothers and we shared our musical taste with each other and decided to part ways with the other guitarist. The music taste hasn't always came easy but we learned to compromise and share then we all started to grow and appreciate each other's style and taste. I personally probably have the largest playlist as far as liking the most diverse music. I can easily enjoy going to see a band like Testament or Whitechapel then a week later see bands like Tesla or The Pretty Reckless. My all-time favorite band probably is Social Distortion who are punk mixed with rock and country so I guess they helped my taste grow.

How long have the members of the band been working together? Who was your former bassist and why did he leave the band?
Dave, Bill and I have been working together for seventeen years and bassists have been a struggle. Our last bassist Glen who was actually our original drummer left last year over personal reasons. We have always had a good relationship with all our bassists; it just seems for us that they seem to grow in different directions. Most bass players we have had come from different instruments; mostly guitar and drums; maybe they were called to go back to their instruments of choice or life just sometimes causes them to leave. Currently Zach has done incredible filling in, but again his love is the guitar and he has his own band. Still he has been a trooper and helped us get through this past year as Jeremy gets ready to take that step. Jeremy should fit in awesomely with us and he is a true bass player. Plus he was a fan of the band and friend for many years.

Did you approach Dallas Hollow to fill in on bass or did he offer? How did you find Jeremy McCary as your new bassist?
We approached Zach last year when we made the finals in the Hard Rock Cafe battle of the bands and we had to perform in Pigeon Forge at the Hard Rock Cafe. He stepped in and we got second place after only one practice with him. Zach has been a friend for a very long time and has come to our band room just to listen several times. He is one of those guys who just loves to play and we appreciate that about him.

What accounts for the band having worked together for so long? How much of your personal lives reflected in your material?
I'd say the way we have survived in the music world for so long just comes down to friendship, understanding, forgiving, desire. I've heard people say being in a band is like being in a marriage with four other people and it is hard for a couple to stay married so imagine a four way marriage. I look at it not as a marriage but as a family a brotherhood. Yeah your brother can piss you off as can your family but you love em and family don't go away. Blood for blood. Each member’s families have also stayed tight as well the wives are sisters, the kids call me Uncle Mike. My son learned drums from Bill, he learned bass from Dave. My son is great friends with Dave's daughter. It is one extremely tight music family. Our personal lives can have an influence on a song for sure. Some great songs have been and will be written from sorrow and happiness. For the most part Hazmat tell stories and our songs are fiction if you will, but there are exceptions. Believe was written from life as I mentioned and our title track from our last CD Tired Of Being Pretty was a little of both written about a real life stalker I had but the title came from a little joke I made one night when I told someone I was tired of being pretty I just wanna be cute.

What horror movies does the band like and what speaks to the band members about said movies? Which era or eras in horror cinema is most favored among the band?
Well we love em all. At least a lot of them. It can be anything from old black and white, modern remakes and cheesy splatter slasher films. We all love the Friday The 13th series, Halloween, etc. I love a good story but I can easily sit back and have a good laugh with a Troma splatter film. Long before it was a popular genre I was a zombie fan. I'm a huge Romero and Savini fan and have been fortunate to spend time with both guys. I also live what I call Boo films; something that makes me jump. 1408 was a great boo film and creepy as Hell.

What do you like most about the Friday The 13th and Halloween movies? Do you prefer the originals or the remakes?
As far as the Friday The 13th and Halloween films, I believe we all prefer the originals although Rob Zombie I think did an excellent job doing his remakes. Zombie has a unique way of storytelling and I love it. House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects are instant classics. As far as what I like most about Friday and Halloween are not only the boo factors but the fact that it can really happen. OK maybe the not coming back to life aspect but there can be those deranged serial killers out there and that is scary as Hell. Everybody loves being scared I do believe. Plus who doesn't love it when the villain kills the preppy jerk in the films?

What are some of the other horror movies you and the band grew up on? Would you rather see organic special effects or CGI in a horror movie?
I remember going to the video stores as a teen renting movies like Puppet Master, Wishmaster, Hellraiser, I Spit On Your Grave, Pumpkinhead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Boogens, Creepers, Evil Dead and the list goes on. All the splatter films were fun. I remember sneaking into the theater to see Pieces with some friends because I was underage. I love it when a movie is used without CGI but I'm not opposed to someone using CGI; if it makes the film look more authentic then go for it.

What magazines do you and the band read to stay updated on movies and keep up with the horror genre?
I still read Fangoria; it's always been a great mag. Mostly though I see things on the internet and at conventions. There are certain actors that I follow and I don't miss anything they do. You can find almost anything on the internet. It's a blessing and a curse.

How much experience have you had in the film industry, and how many horror movies have you contributed to the soundtracks for? Are these mostly independent horror films?
Most of the movies we have worked on have been independent films. We have made some lifelong friends doing so and the independents still have the imagination to tell a good story. We met a great filmmaker by the name of George Bonilla at a convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee called ConNooga and have done some work with him. We have written songs for the legendary filmmaker Jeff Burr on a film called Devils Den; he left the production and our song went with him. We wrote a title track for another film for him called Monster Man which has to this date never been released. It can be hit or miss but it's always fun and an honor to work with these great guys. Some of George's films with Hazmat’s music can be found on shelves at major retailers and internet movie channels. Bunker Of Blood is in rotation now on some of those movie sites and can be found in stores. We are currently working with Eric Cain on a new horror flick that should be a really fun in your face movie. We have a close relationship with so many great producers and directors in the film industry. A lot of up and comers that will definitely be seen for many years. Jason Buterin of Mad One Films is a good friend and making some really good films. Jason is also a very talented drummer. To be honest I don't know the exact number of independent films we have done but most are independent. Our music seems to fit right with them.

I have heard of ConNooga from a few friends of mine who are based in Tennessee and Georgia. Do you attend this convention frequently? Did you happen to meet George Romero and/or Tom Savini at one of those shows?
ConNooga is a great time. I go every year whether we perform or not. Todd Patton has put together a great event in ConNooga and everyone in the ConNooga family are some of the best people you could ever meet. We have created some great life long bonds with those guys. The guys Fear Connection who are part of ConNooga are some of the most genuine people you could ever meet and build these incredible horror props. Wrigley FX is also part of the family owned by a great couple who do amazing makeup and special effects for film. The band Radio Cult who play every year are not amazing musicians but some of the best most fun friends you could ever ask for. The list goes on. As far as Savini and Romero I met them several times mostly in Atlanta, Ga. Romero I met first at Dragoncon and got to spend hours with him talking about his movies and just silly stuff. Romero has a great sense of humor as well. Savini I have also been around several times at Dragoncon as well as other conventions. I spent a weekend as his errand boy while he made the movie the Dead Matter. I ran promo stuff between him and Midnight Syndicate.

How often do you attend Dragoncon shows when they come to Chattanooga? Any tales you remember from going to one of them?
I have gone for the past twenty years. Never miss it. It is actually only once a year, on Labor Day weekend only in Atlanta. There are several different conventions all over the world that are similar but Dragoncon and ConNooga are the two I attend the most. I'm sure I have a thousand convention stories but the one I'll share is from a Dragoncon in Atlanta several years back. A few friends and I were staying at a hotel close to the convention and it was the first year that the SEC had the opening college football game at the Georgia Dome and Alabama was playing. Our hotel was half full of congoers and half full of Alabama football fans. A lot of people at conventions like to cosplay and dress as some of their favorite characters. Dragoncon is their Super Bowl and it's their time to go out and show off these great costumes and escape from everyday life. Now all these Alabama fans liked to dress all in their red shirts and painted faces and stand in the lobby and on the balconies and yell making fun of the cosplayers calling them all kinds of names and laughing. Now myself, I don't normally wear costumes but I understand and appreciate those who do. I remember going into the lobby and a very drunk Alabama fan walking over to me and saying "can you believe all these fags" and I looked at him in his red shirt and hat and said "we all wear our colors theirs are just brighter", then that stuck with me. I'm a fan of football also but how can you be so obsessed with your team or anything for that Mayer and not understand how someone else can be just as obsessed with something of their choice? So later that night I went back to my room and wrote a song called "Colors". Wouldn't life be so much better if we all learned to appreciate each other's colors and see life as art and expression?

Cosplay has been misjudged by closed-minded people for a long time. Having gone to conventions since the 90s and met many cosplayers I am not quick to label or ridicule them. Does your song Colors suggest talking to people who don’t fit in, and getting to know them?
Some people love sports while others love music and some love comics, movies or games and like to have fun. I'm the type of person who embraces it all. To be honest the cosplay community and the metal community have some of the most genuine people. They form close bonds and stay true to each other. There are exceptions as with anything but it's a good community to be in. Plus not every football fan is closed minded and not necessarily all Alabama fans either. It just happened to be the Alabama fans at my hotel that year. Colors does hint to give everyone a chance get to know them before you judge them.

How did the band meet George Bonita and what led to the band corresponding and working with him?
We met George Bonilla at a ConNooga show. After we performed we went to the room parties but ended up back in the Hazmat hotel room. It was Hazmat, George, and John Dugan who played the Grandpa in Texas Chainsaw Massacre just hanging out all night talking about music, movies, and just life. From that night on we have kept a friendship it's a great bond that ConNooga folks have. Just gotta thank Todd for creating this monsters that has brought so many of us together. It's almost like this secret society that you want to share with the world.

How much has horror cinema been an influence on the band’s lyrics? What is your view of bands who make statements about society through horror based themes?
I'd say that horror cinema has been just somewhat of an influence on us. We don't necessarily say it's an influence though we have had songs influenced by them or at least the genre. Our song Fear we wanted to write through the eyes of a serial killer. What's going on in his head or at least what we would perceive as going on inside his mind. Our song Unknown has the feel of a stalker; it’s the feel we wanted for the song though it is actually a sweet song just worded to sound creepy. Of course Monster Man is directly about the characters and killer in the movie Monster Man. Most of our songs are just about life though. We may use metaphors or hide the true meaning behind some crazy line but if it isn't about life then at least we are telling a good story. I love the fact that bands are just dedicated enough to make statements by any means. At least they are voicing their opinions. Whether or not I agree with them or anyone, at least they are bold enough to speak out and create art. If they use horror references then that is a way they relate to life. It's the ones who keep it in you gotta worry about.

Did you study serial killers and stalkers while writing the lyrics to Fear and Unknown? There are many lyricists who write such songs with certain people in mind.
We didn't necessarily study serial killers for the songs. I think the entire band has a fascination with them. I not only watch movies about them but also documentaries on them quite often. Manson, Gein, Bundy, Dahmer, on down the line. It amazes me how they have so much charisma and charm and people have no idea of the demons in their heads. Look at the BTK killer Dennis Rader; he was just an everyday dog catcher but he had crazy obsessions inside his head. There are a lot of bands in metal who write about serial killers. Whitechapel did an entire album based on Jack the Ripper. I think it is fun to tell stories which can be a little scary. People love being scared. Plus most people have a little or a lot of hate inside and it is so much better to voice it through song then to act on it.

Is Hazmat currently working on any material? Where and with who does the band usually record their full lengths?
Hazmat are currently working on our seventh full release. We have the songs written and have tried them out live over the past couple months and are now taking a short break to record them before we begin playing shows again in September. The new CD should be released by the end of this year and it will be turtles "Broken Carousel" which is from a line in our new song Nightmare. When I sang that line it just hit me that through seventeen years of ups and downs and losing bass players and crazy life games Hazmat has been on this crazy Carousel ride and yes it may be broken from time to time but damn it we still hold on and ride this bitch. We normally record with Roger Gordon who owns a studio close to Dayton, Tennessee.

Discuss the band’s six previous releases and how Hazmat has progressed over the course of all of them. Were they released on an independent label or did the band release them independently?
Our first release in 1998 which we recorded with Roger Gordon was a straightforward thrash EP. Only two songs from that album have survived the Hazmatic meat grinder through the years. Both of them have been changed: Greatest Hate and Under The Influence. It was our first so we did our own independent thing with it. Printing, burning, selling only at shows.
Our second CD was self-titled and we pretty much went the same route with it. It was still thrash and we still had the two guitars. We recorded it with Gene Norman in Chattanooga. Greatest Hate was redone on that CD and it was later picked up by an independent label called New Day Records.
The third CD we recorded with VJ Maxwell from the band Needles and was called Unknown. It took Hazmat into a punk direction. This was our first release as a four piece as well. That CD did pretty well for us and got us into some larger audiences performing at Dragoncon and The Riverbend Festival and more festivals around the south.
Our fourth CD was Hazmat 3 2004. It was our third full length hence the title. It was a fun CD and I think it was our first release to really show us maturing as a band. We did go back to Roger for this one. We went back to self-printing and distributing and it was only available at shows.
For our fifth CD we actually went to Roger to record just a couple of songs. Jeff Burr was about to start a new movie project which was a sequel to Monster Man, and we went in to record the title track for the film and another track. The movie didn't get made so we had these two songs and wanted to sell them. We decided to do not quite a greatest hits but release a couple songs from each CD and add the new songs. We packaged it and called it Greatest Hates. We then found ways of distributing our music digitally and found a few popular internet music pages like Spotify.
Our sixth release we recorded with Roger again we have really got the mileage out of this one was called Tired of Being Pretty and we released it through CD Baby. They package, distribute, promote and put us on every place you can get music. That CD definitely shows growth as well as diversity that this band is and will always be.

Have you been working with Roger Gordon since the release of your first full length? How has your working relationship with him developed over the years?
Since the release of the last CD we recorded two more songs with Roger. We did the theme song for G.H.O.S.T. Paranormal show Hunting The Unknown Truth. We recorded a song called I Roam which they used for the opening credits. We will be recording it again for our upcoming CD.

Does Roger Gordon worked with other bands in his studio besides Hazmat?
Roger Gordon works with several bands. He runs his studio full time. He actually is an incredible musician. He played in a touring band through the 70s and 80s and opened his studio up after coming off the road. He still records his original music.

Does the band often write lyrics about paranormal subjects or was I Roam a one shot deal?
I Roam was really the first time we wrote about the paranormal though each of us are very interested in paranormal activity. We have actually participated on several investigations with G.H.O.S.T. Paranormal, Deepsouth Paranormal, and other groups. I have met all the guys from SI-FI Ghost Hunters, The Haunted Collectors, Destination Truth, etc. and have formed a few friendships with several of them. There are metal heads everywhere and yep some of them are ghost hunters and a few are Hazmat fans ha ha. I wouldn't be surprised if we write more about the paranormal in the future.

Describe some of the investigations you have taken with G.H.O.S.T. Paranormal and Deepsouth Paranormal? Any local legends you and they looked into?
We actually went on a ghost investigation with Deepsouth Paranormal and G.H.O.S.T. Paranormal at the Walking Horse hotel and saloon in Wartrace, Tennessee a couple years ago. It is one of the most active locations in the south. They have restored some of the rooms but for the most part it is still original. During that investigation we had several very unique experiences. In one room I personally had what felt like a small hand hold onto my hand. Our drummer Bill got sick at the same moment; we were standing side by side. Something appeared in the basement; we made contact with a little boy that had burned in a fire there. I know there are skeptics, to a point I have been also but at any rate we have had some strange things happen. We did another investigation at an old factory in Chattanooga and had a bolt thrown at us. That was a little freaky to say the least.

Describe the recording studio Gordon owns and the equipment he records with there.
I couldn't begin to tell you what he uses. To be honest I don't have knowledge to tell you, but you walk in and you just know you are in a studio. It has professional hardwood floors, soundproof walls, and a big mixing board in front of a big glass window. Also separate rooms for vocals and guitars. It is just as you see in the bigger recording studios. Plus I've known Roger forever. I'd worked with him before I joined Hazmat with other bands. It just feels like home to us.

Which songs from each of your releases have been performed live most often and remain live staples to this day?
The songs that we've played the most through the years have to be Under The Influence, Greatest Hate, Silent Hell, Tired of Being Pretty, I Wanna Believe, Ride, Burn, and a silly song we did called Redneck Heaven. With the new songs added over the past few months really the only older songs we have been doing are Silent Hell, Greatest Hate, I Roam and Tired Of Being Pretty, but things change and sometimes we just throw in an older tune or two and a cover song here and there.

Discuss the lyrics of the songs you listed as live staples. What influenced them and what are the lyrics meant to say?
I won't list the lyrics for our sings because that would take a book, but I can tell you about a few of our staple songs. Our newest song Nightmare I wrote the lyrics after a crazy relationship where a girl went back to an abusive relationship after leaving. The lyrics were written through the eyes of an asshole plain and simple, the man of your nightmares. Greatest Hate has always been my favorite lyric-wise. It is about being right at the point of anger and fear about the deepest hurt and sadness and seeing that same hate inside of someone else and neither say a word. Let It Ride another new song. Bill actually wrote the first verse and chorus after seeing a news story about the Middle East. I wrote the second verse with not only that in mind but everything else in this crazy world. From school shootings to rioting in Flint and other areas. Soon after writing this song the Chattanooga shootings gave the song a whole new meaning. It is a song basically telling us to wake up and question why hate people you don't even know? Silent Hell is written in the mindset of the guy who is really paranoid and schizophrenic. At the point of going crazy. A fun little tale.

How much more has internet sites like Spotify helped the band promote their work? Do you have more creative control over your material since you began streaming it online?
The music sites definitely help promote the band and get you heard by a much larger audience which is great for a band like us. You are a little better known but bands trying to make a living with their music are really being hurt. The music sites for the consumer is great but to the musician it hurts because with mobile devices and these sites people are streaming music for free and not buying near as much. It's kind of a case of Catch 22; you have your music in more places but it's not getting bought. Most bands are relying heavily on merchandise sales to make their living. As far as promotion and getting you heard these sites are incredible. Being independent you do have much more control over your own music. You can record as you want and choose what you want or don't want to be heard. For the most part most metal bands are independent, even the national acts. Unless you are on a major label and have a hired big name producer you still have control. Metal and hard rock, punk, hardcore… any extreme music isn't really getting signed by the major labels anymore. It's the independent labels that are stepping up and doing amazing things for bands today. Century, Metal Blade, Rise and Victory are bringing bands to the masses. Clothing and liquor companies are stepping up and sponsoring metal bands. Coldcock Whiskey are promoting and sponsoring bands and becoming the new voice for independent metal. The major labels consider rock and metal dead, but these companies know it's alive and kicking. Yes it was damaged by lack of music sales but the bands and these great independent labels will figure it out, fix it and make it a giant again. Just look around any mall or any place you walk and see how many pop band shirts you see on people. Maybe a few pop heartthrobs are popular but see how many Slayer shirts, Metallica, AC/DC, new bands like Motionless In White, In This Moment, Hellyeah, still see those Misfit and Ramones shirts and a Hazmat shirt here and there. It's not dead. It still has the biggest fanbase and one day the major labels will wake up and realize but it will be way too late because metal bands are loyal and remember who was there for them.

Perhaps it’s better for underground metal to continue with the support it is receiving now, because I’ve noticed the independent labels and independent metal fests that do it grassroots have lasted without the bands losing their integrity. Whereas thrash bands that changed to be more widely accepted in the late 80s fell apart and with metal’s mainstream acceptance there seems to have been somewhat of a dumbing down of metal culture. In the mid 80s bands gave intelligent interviews and broke the stereotype that all metalheads are airheads, but to a certain extent this stereotype appears to be coming back in vogue.
I think some of the 80s bands did put on a persona of being airheaded, though they were actually intelligent. I've met many artists through the years and trust me with some it was an act and with some it was not. I've met a few that are actually very ditzy but isn't that the way everyday people are? As far as today's artists I wouldn't necessarily say it's an airhead thing as much as a maturity issue. Many more mature artists are seeing a financial challenge to tour and are getting "real" jobs and playing shows locally. Many of the touring acts are younger people out of high school. I wouldn't say they are airheaded as much as inexperienced in life. As before there are exceptions. Some are very mature. Halestorm for example: I know they are not considered heavy to some people but those guys started very young. I've met and talked to them several times and they have great heads on their shoulders. Veil Of Maya, Shattered Sun, The Butcher Babies, all great young people and intelligent. A band that I'm a huge fan of and friends with is One Eyed Doll who are making music for a living and amazing people. There are brains out there and a lot of the other bands will mature over time. It's just a younger breed coming in and thank God for them.

How do you think metal bands and musicians can work to disprove popular stereotypes of metal culture?
I don't think metal bands have to do anything at all. Just be who they are. It's not metal musicians that have to prove themselves to anyone. It's a great community and great true friendships and if the rest of the world doesn't see it then shame on them because they are missing out. It's not for everyone, just like farm life isn't for everyone. I think the metal, hard rock, punk, hardcore, death industries are fine. Sure they need to make changes in order to make a living but as far as acceptance it's not our job. Just stay true and be yourself.

Does Hazmat have any special projects planned for the future, in addition to a new full length?
As far as our upcoming projects we do have another ghost investigation on All Hallows Eve. It's an all day/night event with a meet and greet with top paranormal investigators and dinner followed by a full Hazmat concert. Immediately after our concert an all-night ghost hunt. We are also working on another horror movie with Eric Cain and our new CD. Then it's just off performing and who knows what else will pop up.

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-Dave Wolff