Friday, April 26, 2019

Interview with Craig Meinhart of SILVERTONGUEDEVIL by Dave Wolff

Interview with Craig Meinhart of SILVERTONGUEDEVIL

You describe Silvertonguedevil as a band not easily falling into any sub-categories of metal. It’s a combination of extreme and old school metal with some punk added. How did your sound develop since you started writing material?
Our sound developed in a naturalistic way, with each member adding their own influence to the songs. Each band has their own way of writing, and for us it all starts with either a riff or a vocal line, and from there the song takes its shape. From our first album to now our fourth, we’ve tried to refine the sound that originated when the band started in 2005. The thing we’re most proud of is the fact that we don’t sound like anyone else, but we’re still recognizably metal.

Does each band member’s tastes in music influence the other members? How much of a process is composing a song after a vocal line or riff has been written?
Each member has their own varied influences that they bring to the table, but we have a unified theory of what STD’s music should encapsulate. The process of writing varies slightly from song to song, but the end result is we all put in our opinions and shape not only our own individual parts but those of the others in the band.

To what extent has Silvertonguedevil’s sound been refined in the last fourteen years? At this stage is there potential to keep growing as a band?
STD’s sound has evolved as new members have joined and we’ve expanded our scope, but we’re dedicated of retaining the core of what we do. Basically we’re trying to perfect our sound, not reinvent it with each new record. There’s always definitely room for us to grow as a band, and we’re always trying to hone our skills while remaining thoroughly metal.

How many lineup changes has the band had since their inception? How much has each new band member have to adjust his playing to learn older songs, if at all?
STD has gone through many lineup changes over the years, as any band that’s been around for fourteen years will do. But the core of Aleks on guitar and Craig on vocals has been the same the whole way through. New members always bring slight changes to the songs and we encourage that, but we always try to keep the song true to the spirit of the records, so any changes in playing style are relatively minor.

What led you to starting the band? Were you friends and/or bandmates for some time before Silvertonguedevil began? What vision did you and he have for the band musically and why has it taken so many lineup changes to come closer to it?
I started looking for new band mates after my old band dissolved. I met Aleks through an ad I placed in the local weekly music magazine Harder Beat in 2005. When we started jamming we shared a love of metal that wasn’t part of the trendy metalcore scene happening at the time. We were big fans of bands like KATAKLYSM, IMMORTAL, and ICED EARTH as well as older bands like KREATOR, SLAYER, and BLACK SABBATH. We quickly put together a lineup and started playing live in just a few months. As we progressed as a band some members would have to leave because of family or work obligations, but we were always able to regroup and keep moving forward. In fourteen years of being together, we’ve never gone more than a month and a half without playing live. We’re always pushing forward, either prepping for a show or working on new material.

How often does the band perform in a month? Or does it vary for the most part? Are you treated well by local venues?
We’ll play live two to six times a month, depending on what we have planned. While writing and recording the new album we scaled back, and once it comes out we’ll ramp things up. The DFW Metroplex has three distinct scenes, and we call each of them home. There’s Denton, a college town on the northern side, then Dallas, and Fort Worth. Some of the clubs we regularly play include Wits End, Tomcats West, Andy’s Bar, Renos, J&J’s, and Diamond Jim’s.

How do metal fans from each section of the DFW Metroplex get along together? How much is the ban received in those areas and the clubs you mentioned in particular?
The DFW Metroplex scene is divided into three main areas: Denton, Dallas, and Fort Worth. For the most part they are three distinct scenes with their own groups of bands. From the beginning we’ve made sure to play and trade shows with bands from all three, and we’re lucky to be accepted in each group.

What bands from each section of the DFW have you performed with most often? Do those bands have a signature sound that can’t be compared to bands from other cities?
DFW has vibrant metal and punk scenes at the moment, one of the best in the country. STD regularly plays with a great cross section of bands from the area like ELECTRIC VENGEANCE (crossover thrash), DIESELBEAST (heavy metal), CROPDUST (doom), CHEMICAUST (thrash), EMPTY SHELL (grind), KOMBAT (death metal), INTERMEMT (death metal), HOODRAT (punk), MONOGAMIZER (progressive), WROUGHT OF OBSIDIAN (technical death metal), and too many others to list out. There’s a lot of heavy hitters in the area. There’s not a signature sound amongst them per se, but there’s plenty of variance.

How consistent are fans from the DFW when it comes to attending shows and generally supporting local bands?
The fans around here are great, and the Pit-Bulls deserve a big shoutout. The Pit-Bulls are a mosh group that regularly go to shows to mosh and support the bands whether they are local or national, and they’ve become well known in their own right. On top of that there are lots of fans that come out to shows and support. It’s a very healthy scene.

Is the band’s current lineup stable as it is? Do any of you have previous experience in other bands? How much does past experience help the band at present?
Our current lineup is very stable, and we’ve been crazy busy with playing live and recording our new album. John is super versatile and plays both guitar and bass, and David our drummer has been a good friend of the band for years. At the moment we’re firing on all cylinders. We’ve all had previous bands before STD, and the fact that we all have years of experience playing live and recording makes us very efficient at both.

Name some of the bands the members of STD were previously involved with. Are any of these bands still active today? If so, where on the net can they be found?
Our bassist/second guitarist John was in a band called BETRAYAL BY TRUTH that is unfortunately no longer around, as well as some other bands that weren’t as long lived. And our most recent addition is David Cruz on drums, and his band BLACK CHAMBER is currently on hiatus. He originally came from New York and played with a few metal bands up there.

What bands was David Cruz working with while he was in New York?
David was in a string of punk and metal bands before moving to TX a few years back. BLACK CHAMBER was the first band that got him notice here in the local scene.

What importance do lead vocals have in the band’s development? What vocal style does the band generally prefer?
Vocals are just as important as the other instruments, but no more so. Even though we utilize growls and harsh vocals, enunciation is key. Our preference is not to have one single vocal style but to change things up. Sometimes a death growl is best, sometimes it has more of a thrash attack, and sometimes a clean vocal best fits the song.

People complain that death metal and extreme metal vocals are unintelligible, and only screaming into a microphone, without bothering to note the differences between vocal styles. How much emphasis do you place on enunciation so your lyrics are understood?
Enunciation is extremely important to our vocal style. Whether its death growls, thrash screams, or hardcore barking, we want the audience to be able to follow along with the lyrics. A lot of time and effort is placed on composing the lyrics, and we try to make each song its own self-contained story.

Do your releases usually come with lyric sheets so your listeners can follow the lyrics more easily?
Our CDs have always come with lyric sheets, and I enjoy creating lyric music videos to showcase our lyrics. Our new album will also have a lyric sheet, and lyrics to all of our songs are posted online so people can check them out.

Do you have a technique of using your vocal cords in a way so you don’t damage your throat when singing?
As a vocalist, I make sure to warm up and cool down my vocals for each show and practice, and I never drink alcohol until the show is done. We’re not doing opera for sure, but it’s still important to us to take this seriously.

Can listeners make out your lyrics without reading along? How much effort do you put into enunciating clearly?
Even at our most extreme we try to make the vocals intelligible, so that people can follow along and listen even if they don’t know us. Enunciation is key, as a lot of time and effort goes into crafting lyrics, and we don’t want them to sound like a garbled mess.

On Youtube there are quite a few tutorial videos explaining the discipline and vocal techniques needed for death growls, fry screams, pig squeals etc. Have you ever watched any and followed the advice given?
I don’t have any formal vocal training, but I have watched several training videos online. It has been very useful to learn warm up and cool down techniques, but otherwise I try not to consciously mimic anyone else’s style.

Whose training videos do you watch most often? If you recommend them to vocalists into metalcore, thrash or extreme metal, explain how beneficial their videos are and include the addresses to their Youtube channels?
I don’t have any specific recommendations for videos for vocal training. There’s a ton of them online, and it mostly comes down to doing the exercises.
What vocal styles do you use for Silvertonguedevil most often?
There are several vocal styles out there, from guttural to harsh to screams and yells and clean and throat singing. There are more I’m sure. For STD I utilize a blend of death, thrash, and clean singing, adding just a bit of hardcore now and then. As a for instance, for warmups I’ll sing some SABBATH, some MISFTIS, some MEGADETH, and some DEICIDE just to get loose. That’s a pretty accurate description of our vocal style. The more I learn about singing the more I realize it’s all about breathing, and I’m always trying to improve my technique. 

What subject matter does the band usually write and sing about?
Subject matter for our lyrics runs a wide variety of influences, with the goal of telling a vivid story. Our most recent song “Full Spectrum Dominance” is about the insanity of mutually assured destruction at the hands of our military industrial complex, while an older song like “By Any Means Necessary” is a retelling of the Marquis de Sade’s imprisonment in the Bastille. Some songs are based on history, some on sci fi speculation, and some are straight up horror stories. It’s fun to change things up.

How much research did you do into the Marquis de Sade’s life while you wrote the lyrics of “By Any Means Necessary”?
I didn’t have to do too much research on the Marquis de Sade just because I’d read several of his books and already knew about his history. I’m an avid reader of both history and fiction, plus I write a lot and even publish some short fiction, so most often the research for our songs is already done. But every once in a while I’ll dig in and explore some new books and articles, as in the case of a song like “Suicide With Occam’s Razor”.

What is the song “Suicide With Occam’s Razor” about? How did you think up the idea for the title and the lyrics?
“SUICIDE WITH OCCAM’s RAZOR” is about what Ray Kuzweil called The Singularity, or the moment at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable. An artificial intelligence thousands of times smarter than humanity decides that the solution to mankind’s problems is extinction. I came up with the title first in a moment of inspiration, then read several books and articles on artificial intelligence to come up with the lyrics.

How many books did you read on artificial intelligence, and which of them gave you the most to go on while you wrote the lyrics?
I read Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines. The Big Think website was helpful with several AI themed articles, and the Singularity 1 on 1 podcast was very informative. It was a combination of all of those plus my own ideas that lead to the creation of SUICIDE WITH OCCAM’s RAZOR.

What books on the Marquis de Sade would you recommend for their information and accuracy?
My favorite books by the Marquis de Sade are his main works like JUSTINE, the 120 DAYS OF SODOM, and PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM.

Are those books about de Sade still in print? Do the authors include information about de Sade’s life unique to each book?
The books by De Sade are still in print and can be found on Amazon and other book retailers. Each book has a biography of De Sade at the beginning.

How much short fiction have you written of late, and where has most of it been published?
I’ve been published in physical form by Sanitarium Magazine, and on online web zines like Schlock! DM Du Jour, and 3AM. I’m also currently working on publishing a couple more stories.

Name the stories you had published and describe the reception they were met with. Where can people write to order Sanitarium Magazine and go online to find Schlock!, DM Du Jour, and 3AM?
LETHARGICA on Sanitarium magazine got the biggest reception as it had the widest distribution. It has an online site and physical copies for sale. THE BEAUTIFUL PLAGUE, PERFECTION’s FAILURE, and WORK DAY all got good reviews but had a smaller readership.

What were those published stories about? Did you ever consider republishing them with other early stories you’ve written?
LETHARGICA was about a mysterious sickness that overtakes a small town. THE BEAUTIFUL PLAGUE was about a mass hysteria that causes people to spontaneously dance until they die. PERFECTION’s FAILURE was about a horrendous surgery, and WORKDAY was about someone reaching the end of their rope at their job.

Where does your inspiration for fiction writing come from? Are those magazines you were published in strongly supportive of independent horror writers and directors?
Where inspiration comes from is a tough question to answer, because it’s always changing. I try to read and write every day, and some days are quite productive and others not so much. But from this practice the flow of ideas comes more naturally than sitting around and awaiting inspiration. I follow Stephen Kong’s dictum of READ A LOT WRITE A LOT. Markets for writers are notoriously difficult to find, but there are sites like Horror Tree that give listings of what zines are currently publishing new work.

Which authors in addition to Stephen King are most inspirational to you when it comes to writing fiction? How would you consider King’s writings inspirational?
Listing favorite authors is like listing favorite bands, an impossible task because there are so many. But the big ones for me are King, Clive Barker, Poe, Lovecraft, Ketchum, Sade, Milton, and Alighieri.

In what ways, if any, does your inspiration from those authors show in your writing?
My writing and singing influences are always subliminal and unintentional. Once pen hits paper or I grab the mic I’m on my own.

Are you better at writing science fiction or horror, or does it mostly depend on the story?
I’m naturally bent to dark fiction, so horror and weird tales are my favorites to write. But I find it helpful to stretch beyond the norm and explore other areas, like sci fi and crime fiction.

Is there any new fiction you’ve been working on? Where do you intend to publish it once it’s completed?
I’m always working on new projects, I try to write every day. Currently I’m finishing a feature length screenplay and my first full length novel. Once they are complete I’ll shop them around to potential agents and editors. In the meantime I’ll polish some existing short fiction and work on new songs for the band.

What do you have in mind for the next Silvertonguedevil release?
Our newest album PAX SATANICA will be released this fall and will be comprised of half Silvertonguedevil and half Acoustic Devil songs. This will be a special vinyl release, and we’re very excited to have everyone hear our new material. We have the first singles out now across all major streaming and download platforms, plus music videos for each. They are called FULL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE (Silvertonguedevil) and SPAWN OF SUB-HUMAN COPULATION (Acoustic Devil).

We can be found at the following sites:

-Dave Wolff

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