Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Full Length Review: Sinister Downfall "The Last Witness" (Funere, Weird Truth Productions) by Dave Wolff

Country: Germany
Genre: Funeral doom metal
Full length: The Last Witness
Format: Digital album
Label: Funere (Armenia), Weird Truth Productions (Japan)
Distributor: Satanath Records (Georgia)
Release date: September 24, 2022
The German multi-instrumentalist Eugen “Gnev” Kohl has been helming many solo projects since the 2010s, including the doom metal project Coven Spell, the atmospheric black metal project Donarhall, the death metal project Necrochaos, the drone/doom metal project Death Carrier and the funeral doom metal project Sinister Downfall that I’ve been closely listening to the past few days. Kohl also runs the Bandcamp platform for Misanthropic Studios where his bands can be streamed.
“The Last Witness” is the third album Kohl has released for Sinister Downfall after “Eremozoic” (2018) and “A Dark Shining Light” (2020), and given his experience and range of styles it’s not surprising how far things have incrementally but steadily things have progressed with this project. This is a release that needs your complete undivided attention to take in while it’s playing. The nuanced professionalism it was recorded and produced with leaves virtually no room for distraction, as it takes hold from the start and relentlessly crushes until it concludes.
Rhythm guitars serve as a poignant and powerful backdrop for a subtle but deepened range of emotions, flooding limitless nothingness with diminished but tangible light of varying saturation. Bass and keyboards accompany this wall of sound with drums sounding distant and isolated, implying the depth and vastness of the universe Kohl creates. The interplay with keyboards, piano and lead guitar spawns something so nightmarish and comfortless it turns out beautiful and majestic to a torturous extent. When it comes to sophisticated, monumental doom metal Sinister Downfall seems to surpass all previous efforts to reach this plateau, metamorphosing into exquisite profoundness.
In some ways, this brings to mind the experimental “imaginative horror” genre that’s getting started on Youtube, movie streaming sites, and several independent film festivals. For example, there is a fleeting rain effect during the piano intro of the first song that fades out with the opening strains. Does this signify our departing from the physical world to enter an inescapable abyss? Each time another nuance of sound and atmosphere appears is likened to being inside a house where all the doors have vanished and everything is subtly changing as if some malevolent spirit is misdirecting your mind and playing tricks on your consciousness.
Those rhythm guitars I mentioned occupying the background, occasionally accompanied by single notes from a lead guitar track, have a somewhat repetitive, singular and almost monotone quality driving the songs toward a place beyond the concept of death. A place that’s unbearably empty and near mindless, as if we have finally reached that long-forgotten realm that always loomed in the distance. Kohl’s vocals, delivered in a typical death growl style, reinforce this feeling and personify the being holding dominion over this dark realm, whose presence is all around you wherever you turn. Equally profound about this album is the way its intensity builds until it finally crescendos and leaves a kind of tranquility in its wake, like a rebirth of sorts.
If you’re into Triptykon (Switzerland), My Dying Bride (UK), Elysium (Australia), and Novembers Doom (USA) you might be interested in checking this and Sinister Downfall’s previous releases out, and keeping abreast of their activities. –Dave Wolff

Eugen Kohl: Vocals, all instruments

Track list:
1. Souls Enslaved
2. Into The Cold Ground
3. Eyes Forever Closed
4. Marble Slab
5. The Last Witness

Monday, February 20, 2023

Full Length Review: Sermon "Till Birth Do Us Part" (Bitume Prods) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Band: Sermon
Location: İzmir
Country: Turkey
Genre: Gothic doom metal
Format: CD, digital
Release date: February 10, 2023
The first track "Posthumous" didn’t really strike me as amazing, but as it went on I found it to be a really good song. I’m not saying anything about the vocals they were fine, I just can’t really understand them. Overall the guitar and drum beats make a really solid track. Also, I get the vibe that the lyrics are about religion which is refreshing because most metal isn’t and I’m not against the Christian faith to put it simply. Track three "Flawless Entropy" was good, I liked that at 5:20 you could kind of start to understand somebody which made it sound hella deep like he was getting real with you here for a minute!
Moving on to track four "Requitement", I heard something about a Tidal Wave which was by melodic guitar riffs and bell-like sounds that remind me of old black metal bands from 2011. Pretty standard Black metal stuff here. I’m not a big fan, but this was actually pretty easy to listen to. Cerulean I definitely get the funeral vibes in this song, and it got a little Marilyn Manson-esque guitar riff for a second around 3:05. I heard something in this song about how “he will reign”. I'm guessing this is about Jesus Christ? Very interesting stuff here, I think I am really starting to see what they are going for and I like it!
Track six "Destined to Decline" had a really good intro that I thought sounded really good and I don’t really care that I can’t understand what he is saying. The drums sounded nice at 3:23! The echo of the screeching sounds in his voice sounds really metal. The end of the song was really interesting. They definitely get mad props for giving us some understandable lyrics!
"Gnostic Dissensus" had a definite techno sound at the beginning of the track which turned into a power metal kind of jam, the vocals sounded really good with it though and I just think they really did a good job mixing it up here, it almost sounds like an entirely different band at times. The final track The Jupiterian Effect wrapped it all up well, but it was sort of a sharp contrast to the song before. I feel like there is work that needs to be done on this track and the previous one to get the full conclusive effect I think they might be looking for on this track, that's just my opinion though. I thought all the bells and howling were good, but I would have liked to hear more techno-like beats at the beginning like on "Gnostic Dissensus"; it would have been even better. All in all a really good album, and look forward to seeing more from them in the future! -Brynn Kali StarDew

Songwriting: 9/10
Musicianship: 9/10
Memorability: 9/10
Production: 9/10
Overall: 9.5/10

Harun Altun: Vocals
Durmuş Kalın: Lead guitars, keyboards, drum programming
Cem Barut: Rhythm guitars

Track list:
1. Posthumous
2. Silver Splinter
3. Flawless Entropy
4. Requitement
5. Cerulean
6. Destined To Decline
7. Gnostic Disensus
8. The Jupiterian Effect

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Full Length Review: Nesbitt Instrumentals "Apocrypha Vol. 1" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Band: Nesbitt Instrumentals
Location: Lebanon, Kentucky
Country: USA
Genre: Metal, acoustic, instrumental
Full length: Apocrypha Vol. 1
Format: Digital
Label: Independent
Release date: January 31, 2023
Talons In The Night is a really interesting track with lots of twists and turns, I really thought this song was on point with what I think a good Instrumental track should be and the next one Dead With No Name was sufficient as well. Definitely good Sound Quality in the recording, the art is a bit basic but it gets the job done! There really isn't anything to complain about! Track three Human Beast was a little faster than Dead with no Name but I liked that, the double Bass drumming sounds good on this Track too. I would definitely recommend something like this to people who get tired of hearing indistinguishable lyrics and just wanna hear some really brutal Moshing music!
Moving on to Crucible Steel this song is good, definitely has the sound of what I wanted to hear for something with a title like this. I can totally see molten metal being forged with this playing in the background. Draugr wasn’t anything crazy instrumentally but still a good track, it definitely has a little bit of a Bowser's Castle theme around 1:50 which is commendable. The next song Ulfberht really took me by surprise with how fast they came in, but I kind of liked it. It really has that bowser's castle thing I was talking about, I think they really might be onto something here….it's not overwhelming but takes the listener by surprise, well done! The Next track on the album track nine Underworld I really liked, I would even go as far to say it was my favorite on the entire album. The guitar bends in it help to give it a nice “Doomy and Gloomy” sort of sound which I am fond of.
I don’t really need to say a lot for this next track, it sort of speaks for itself with satanic drumming and sweeping guitar riffs, Minotaur knocks it out of the park by meeting excellent musicianship with classic mythological title. Enough said. Heathen is definitely similar in terms of drumming and sweeping…. It seems like the title is just a little different. The final track Vengeance had an interesting intro which I definitely recommend, this whole album is a little bit underrated in my opinion. I haven't listened to much instrumental metal in a while so thank you to Nesbitt Instrumentals and Dave Wolff for changing that! -Brynn Kali StarDew

Musicianship 9/10
SongWriting 10/10
Memorability 9/10
Production 8/10
Overall 9/10

Jonathan Nesbitt II: All instruments

Track list:
1. Talons In the Night
2. Dead With No Name
3. Human Beast
4. Crucible Steel
5. Teeth in The Darkness
6. Draugr
7. Ulfberht
8. Equinox
9. Underworld
10. Forge the Blade
11. Minotaur
12. Omen
13. Heathen
14. Vengeance

Interview with Kristopher Battilana by Dave Wolff

Interview with Kristopher Battilana by Dave Wolff

I recently noticed a post on your Facebook profile describing an experience with companies who exploit artists and calling for the formation of a non for profit music review and charting group. Can you elaborate on this some more?
Basically, I'm at a point where I'm feeling very disheartened, pay to win is kinda hated in every industry and it seems rife throughout this industry worse than others. What an independent artist would "pay" for scam services because they don’t know better would never be earned back in the streaming revenue, or probably not even from exposure from the said chart. For instance, the service that emailed me was asking $199 USD... that's a lot of money for an artwork that essentially doesn't pay the artist back. If anything, some of the parole-style services can actually get the artist punished and their music deleted, so I also believe the policies and punishment is directed at the wrong recipients also. That said, I have never paid for any of these services... luckily I was warned before I did.
To elaborate further, I did call for independent not-for-profit charting and promotion services. And I know these do exist, but what I notice, is the only people paying any attention to this are the artists who nominate themselves... I'm really feeling stumped as to how to get the public interested in independence as opposed to the daily radio repeats... we need a way to force-feed them as that's how they function.

Do you think that openly discussing these companies and their methods of charging is making a difference with bands who don’t want to pay to be heard?
I think discussing anything in an open forum will always make a difference in building awareness. It is an ever-changing industry with new technologies and new Web platforms, and obviously, companies will evolve in order to retain profits in a new environment.
I'm unsure about other places, but local people here listen to about two radio stations. Then if we look. at their Spotify library, it is much the same... as they don't know anything else, it's not put before them.
I think artists are doing all they can, I think the streaming services are awesome in that they provide a platform on which to be heard.
I feel we need to change the listening habits of the public. Commercial radio and television had alluded that it has the "goods", it's good stagecraft to create an illusion, stagecraft is their trade, and they sell the illusion that they have the goods. So people listen. They're rewarded with mutual content to talk about.
Maybe the reason these charging services exist is that the web is slowly replacing major labels and larger companies have to compensate for more revenue?
I love underground indie music, and perhaps it's naive and counterintuitive to want underground music to be more known... I guess that would make it not underground.
Also, it could be my location/geography, here in Geraldton it is not densely populated, the music industry is quiet and small, and there are rarely any big rock shows or festivals here, so there is less opportunity all around for indie artists.
Being quite a busy person with children, a full-time job, and single, and trying to pursue a few musical projects, I find I’m limited on time and money to do much promotion. I believe any platform allowing small artists to upload for free is definitely helping the artists... but I think underground music needs more support in the mainstream. Even one song a day on commercial radio would be better than how it is here at the moment. I heard INXS six times in 24 hours the other day.... that's five slots for Indies. I think the listening habits need to change, and I think they are, but I also think it’s a given that companies with try to retain profits in a new environment, and that is expected.

What of the streaming services on the net where bands can upload their work without additional cost to them? How much are those outlets helping independent artists make a name?
Nothing is ever free, a painter still needs to buy paint use tools and time, and pay for gallery space. But galleries are physical places and the art is in front of the eyes. Music is a little different. I've even considered some kinda flea market stand where collaborating of Indies all have their merchandise and a listening station like in the old-school cd stores. Was gonna call it Music Finder. And hit as many flea markets as possible with physical products and public steaming of the music so people interested In buying local cottage industry goods will remember that music is also local independent "produce" that's good for your soul and community and should be supported. The problem I think isn't actually the payola services, it's more that there doesn't appear to be any other ways to get seen heard or charted. Me and my friends used to spend much of our teen years in cd stores listening to new music with the intention of finding something to buy. This culture is lost. I'm unsure if it's a scam or not, there are a bunch of Spotify playlists that claim they are playing the music in cafes under a commercial license... the cafes pay a fee and have access to hours of music... These lists get heaps of streams, if it's true it's good and this sort of thing might help a lot. But the word in the chat forums is that they are a scam and they're bot streams... perhaps even some type of ombudsman service to weed out the scam services would be beneficial... though again... someone would want payment for that service.

Concerning whether a band is “not underground” anymore if they achieve mainstream success, maybe that’s oversimplifying it a little. A band breaking aboveground isn’t selling out any more than a band is forsaking success if they stay closer to the grassroots. It depends on each band and where their heads are at. Some bands stay humble and respectful to the fans who helped put them aboveground, while others develop big heads and become marketing tools.
Some bands remain underground, and some start making headway and “sell out” becoming, like you say, marketing tools for Adidas slippers, and hair products. Some change motives and others stay close to their roots and still become successful, and the formula of doing that is elusive... for instance Tool and Maynard are IMO a large successful underground act that just does themselves. They ain't selling soda pop with the music.
I think maybe some artists do not even notice their conversion, as we naturally gravitate towards what makes us feel good, and suddenly selling streams or records or shirts would feel good. So naturally one might slip down that path of “sell out” should it become available... and that is not dishonest, that is capitalizing on your time on earth. Why not?
One of my favourite artists I do follow I believe has totally manipulated the independent scene and became his own brand despite record companies. I find Devin Townsend to be extremely motivational in that respect.
Also names like Nick Cave who has remained underground and obscure but still pops up in the mainstream in songs with kylie Minogue etc.
I find the artists that successfully do this have a very dynamic style to begin with. And don't need to change a sound or motivation, and success falls into both categories, in mainstream and underground. Now I question myself... how did they do it?
I would love to be able to continue an "underground" music career but see success on this level... perhaps it takes genius and hard work.
I think it takes honesty self and confidence in your product despite numbers.
What I find is the misconception of the public that the “underground” is a small scene with lower quality. But it's actually a larger scene with more diverse sounds.
I admit it’s very tongue in cheek to diss the mainstream, as we artists all know a small break in the mainstream could make our career, and the opportunity of that I doubt would be cast aside by any aspiring artist.
I guess maybe that's how Devy felt when Steve Vai hired him. From underground to world-class tours almost overnight. I don't dislike mainstream, and I don't think bands really “sell out” as opposed to purely pursuing success in a short life.
My complaint with mainstream coverage is they do not support the grassroots that feed them.

The majority of metal festivals are run by fans or indie labels, helping to establish underground scenes as self-sustaining without mainstream backing. Do you have chances to attend any, and how do you think they help indie bands?
There is very little in the way of metal festivals here. Perth gets a few but most don't come here anymore as we're isolated, and it seems our state makes organizers jump through flaming hoops, it's easier for them to abandon Perth as I think they see it as only costly to come here. Locally we have a small organization called Midwest sounds, they offer a meeting point for artists, some workshops and open stage nights, plus they back a few things like the battle of the bands and Sunday sounds, which is open-air live music every week. But that doesn't really accommodate heavy music. That's about all we have. Then it's cover bands at about two pubs. Battle of the bands does support heavy music and the judges this year did vote a heavy act to win... I did not enter. They do help indie bands here get some local exposure in our small market.

In addition to streaming services and underground metal fests, what would help indie artists make a name and exert more control over their own work?
I don't think indie artists lack any control over their work as it is. But what could provide them more? I still like my idea of a franchised flea market-style setup, with a listening station. Demo stock and a shop site for people to order from. It'd need to be set up in multiple market zones in every city. Operated by the musicians... we could showcase unplugged music, have listening stations and the band's products/QR codes that link to shop sites, Bandcamps etc. I don’t really know the business side of a franchise... but I think the lack of CD/record stores has become a problem, the franchises that are here like Sanity for instance stock top 50 and then just DVDs and Blurays. That's all we have here. I feel streaming is a very disconnected passive way to listen. I think it’s not the industry that is broken, I think it's people's listening habits, but it's up to the industry to fix that problem.

Describe the projects you are working on and how they benefit independent music. When one of your projects releases something, how much distribution do you usually have?
I've been developing a solo sound over the years, as I spend depression time playing guitar and recording originals mainly to vent and decipher feelings. Much of this music is the result of processing a massive trauma in my life in which I was hacked to death by an assailant wielding two massive knives. So the music comes out very raw emotionally and doesn't really adhere to any one style, yet I feel my individual fingerprint is noticeable.
Also through networking with other artists and collaborating on our artist playlists etc I did meet a guy from Brazil [Gustavo Camargo]. He liked my voice and asked if I'd sing a death metal song for him. So I did. We ended up making six songs and released a five-track EP called “Abysmal Dimension”. We have three more songs in that project, music is written, lyrical concept developing... it's about a man in purgatory building the house he is murdered in. This might change. Bit dark eh.
I also run a small playlisting group called Underconstruction Playlists. There I make new lists about every two months, I don’t make lists with things I like, I scour the internet for submissions based on genre, we fill a list with unknown music then we share the list around, listen to each other’s songs etc. The group page is a place for people to share their music and videos, ask for presaves etc... It is predominantly focused on any style of rock music through to very heavy.
It helps us all a little, and through it both me and I'm sure others have made a few useful contacts. For instance, a member of the group contacted me last week to ask if I'd record a cover for a tribute album. “Definitely!” We have a few ways to legitimately boost our algorithms without cheating with bots etc.
Another idea of mine in the group was a Youtube feeder, where we all feed each other’s names into the Youtube search engine to help with our Youtube algorithm, as playing from links is not as effective as playing and subscribing from a search, so I've researched.
That said it's only small algorithm boosting, it might get our music shown to a few more people but my reach is not very wide... but it is free and a good place to network. Perhaps it's growing. Another project we are slowly getting off the ground is like a blues rock band called “6530”. It's made of me, my uncle and whoever the hell else is around who wants to Jump in. We're trying to build a local network of jamming artists. We want to do regular shows where we all play each other’s music as a jamming band. If someone away at work or not available there will be another person to jump in... So it's a big transient band playing a shipload of original local music. It's a work in progress, there have been a few jams so far. And some original music is already made just not distributed yet.
The 6530 project is really my uncle’s thing. The way that works is we want a bunch of musicians just all to jam each other’s originals at local homes of all these bands' places etc... like BBQ gigs. Playing all and anyone's music... called 6530.
Anyways then as we line up actual venue gigs and industry shit... a fuckload of us already rehearsed in it so whoever is an can do it that night will do it. As the problem here is getting the whole band available at the same time... So we will clone ourselves haha.
I only use Distrokid... I have not looked further into this... in all honesty, I've only been digging through this indie music industry for three years... I'm totally overwhelmed and have a lot to learn. And will happily take on any advice from those more experienced.

Is Underconstruction Playlists an outlet where you can contact artists for submissions or do you choose everything to playlist by searches? How often can you connect with other artists there?
Yeah, it's all via submissions, I hit a few Facebook groups when I build. I find and judge people's music. It's first is first served as long as the genre is loosely accurate. Each list has a chat group so artists can communicate/collaborate, share, follow, and request updated songs etc.

A question I often ask bands in interviews: Has underground music in general reached its limit of creativity or is there still room for experimentation and more ground to cover? What are your projects doing to expand boundaries and what bands have you heard of who do the same?
I don’t think any music has reached a limit of creativity. To say creativity has a limit would render the concept of creation irrelevant.
Instruments are constantly evolving, like the Sustainiac pickups for instance adds a small different element to guitar playing... style comparisons can be made and there is a lot of ground being ‘re’travelled, I guess that results in the honing of styles and genres.
I think my project; “The Raven & The Robot”, is an example of uniqueness and the new ground covered, as I've not seen a project trying to achieve what this one does. And I want to try this again yet on a bigger scale “The Raven &.The Robot” is like a digital storybook. Best viewed on Youtube, it is broken into eight core parts plus a few extra pieces of music/versions at the end. It is a story that uses both lyric AND text literature AND conceptual AI art. The videos consist of AI art depicting characters and events in the story, alongside the art the videos also have both lyrics and an actual fictional text story. It follows a chronological order of events, it combines the storytelling elements of novels, with the storytelling methods of music, with this all depicted in animated AI artworks... it was a shipload of work to achieve as one person, and it is getting great reactions. One reviewer said he's “never reviewed anything like this before” and he really did like it, So I believe if I can create something unique and new, then there is definitely room for more.
Other bands breaking new grounds of creativity... that's difficult for me right now to answer, racking my brain. I liked that Mongolian outfit that mixed traditional instruments with some very awesome metal, their name escapes me at this moment. I always to go back to Devin Townsend, perhaps it's considered old now, but Ziltoid with the Web episodes and puppet shows in a comical rock metal opera style... I think was very unique and unlike much else, we can find. Also, his album Empath combines so many styles seamlessly.
Music to me I see as organic, like the world it grows and dies and resprouts, each reformation of a nostalgic style brings new resistances and new strengths and maybe new vulnerabilities created by its environment. I wholeheartedly believe creativity cannot reach a limit, it is always organically evolving. Though even after saying this I scratch my head to think of band names being so innovatively creative...
For the last three days, I've been unable to stop streaming the new album by the Australian band “The Poor”. Now people might say it's nothing new, hard rock with guitar solos... omg this album is freaking great, and yesterday as listening I realized it could be regarded as a Revolution album, and when viewed that way it really does give goosebumps. When was the last GOOD Revolution album? I think the guitar work in it is second to none and should be noted as an innovation of modern hard rock. I don't think an album will top this for me in 2023.
Another Aussie Cassidy Paris, people may say it's not an innovation in music as it’s a traditional hard rock format, but I think not, I think she's making classic hard rock cool for young girls, where it's lately been a genre for middle-aged men. I see many pop elements in it, perhaps showing Cassidy's young age, so I am very interested to watch her develop. She's great.
Way off the genre. One of my favourites on the entire planet at the moment is “Look Mum No Computer”. Essentially this guy does not use computers to create. He is an amazing sound technician, synth “designer”? And I believe his work will NOT be forgotten. This guy is a freakin awesome and a wealth of knowledge.
I guess a simpler shorter answer would be, I think there's “is” a lot of innovation and originality throughout the indie and underground scenes... Check out the Underconstruction playlists as a bunch of examples.

How much of your material was conceptualized and composed in solitude, and how has this helped your originality? How much more ground do you think can be covered in underground/independent music?
Probably 90% of it is done in solitude. I do work more proficiently alone. Though am trying to get better at working with others. I think my name is on about eighty songs and I think only eight of them are collaborations. Mainly due to a busy life, things get written in the darkest hours of the night. For instance, I found myself awake at 2.30am yesterday, so instead of rolling back to sleep I got up and played the dulcimer guitar. And then mixed and did the final master of our first collaborative of my uncles and my new single before sunrise.
Most of the ideas come when I'm working. Painting is labour-intensive but leaves a great time for the idle mind to conceptualize. And essentially since the trauma of surviving murder, I've become very much a hermit after work hours... it's difficult to want to associate with people socially these days. I rather wind down alone with my instruments. I usually play as therapy and sometimes a song forms.
I think this has helped my originality flourish, yet I have always had a wandering mind, even as a child I did think differently from my peers. So even if surrounded by people I still feel very alone... not practicing covers I also believe has helped with developing originality, although definitely slowed the learning process. Also, the injuries in the fretting hand, having two immobile fingers because they were chopped off, has forced me to develop my own style of playing... a lot of the “guitar wank methods” I simply don't have the dexterity for, so I work around that, and my soloing is developing its own style also I think.
I believe underground music covers a lot of ground. I don't think we've seen it all yet, I believe there is more greatness to come, the best thing about covering new ground is we don't know what bit looks like until we are there. But I have a feeling underground music is on the brink of bigger things, the digital world has changed the market and I think it’s primed for Indies and underground at the moment.

Who are the musicians you have been working with, say in the past year or so?
Being someone who suffers from PTSD and a low level of social anxiety, I find it very difficult to work with others. I’m emotionally driven and sometimes a bit raw. This causes me to hermitize myself a lot. But forcing myself to work with others out of my comfort zone has proven to evolve music and skill. My first collaboration was one year ago.
GUSTAVO CAMARGO of the band Mortal Ways out of Brazil approached me via social media asking me.to put vocals on one of his songs. We released a full ep that year, and are working on another right now. MEJA ALDRICH a local woman I met whilst painting (day jobs) I got to sing in a few songs here and there, mainly on the song “For The Realm”. Meja was previously not appearing in any recordings and has experience through choir-style singing. That song also featured the harmonizing voices of Hans Peter Kaggerud and his daughter Lilja Kaggerud. Both are from Norway. And again Gustavo Camargo does guitar solo on it. Also I have an old family friend Desmond Shiosaki from the duo Shakbats playing a bit of lead on the song “Take Me To Your Post Apocalypse”.
Also the loveliest positive soul I’ve ever been graced to know; Ashe Burns has performed crystal singing bowls for two pieces of music, the ambient track “The Mechanic” plus a meditation piece called “My Dharma”. And we plan to make more material along these lines as a new yet-to-be-named project.
Other than those official appearances and collabs I jam with a bunch of families, my uncle Kevin, Shiosaki, and my father Maurice sing on the Shakbats material. And at times others come and go, these jam sessions are what is going to become the 6530 collaborations that will encompass all the musicians in our postcode 6530, should they want to be part of it.

Underground music first broke into the mainstream around the late eighties and early nineties, a time when people said it wouldn’t last. Since then it’s been easier for bands to be heard aboveground. If this should be compounded again, will it be good or bad for free creative expression?
I think getting the underground heard is only a good thing. One cannot deny the motivation provided by recognition, and without recognition one cannot measure how much great independent music becomes abandoned. I think it cannot take from free creative expression; l think exposure and recognition could only inspire and reinforce undergrounds creative prowess which I feel feeds its originality to the evolution of mainstream. I’d like to see the lines blurred.

It was change when Cannibal Corpse and Cradle of Filth reached mainstream markets. This opened the public to cutting-edge bands like Sigh (Japan), Arcturus (Norway), Hail Spirit Noir (Greece), and Oranssi Pazuzu (Finland). Have you seen bands who choose how to leave their comfort zones find new directions rather than rehashing ground? How much do you see those lines being blurred?
I always wonder how these bands like Cannibal and Cradle, being so obscure styles and underground culture, made that step into mainstream exposure? Was it the shock value of the art and subject matter? Was it just the style at that time that seemed to work... or was it a mainstream PR campaign that told the world to listen? There’s always one or two underground sounds that seem to acquire the Golden Fleece.
In terms of examples of outfits I’ve seen that have found new directions, apart from those previously mentioned?.. I’ll admit I’m a little stumped and need to think... Ghost is a band that I feel is of the underground, yet they are making some mainstream success, and I feel their direction has gone from psychedelic to a bit more of a “nwocr” sound, (or that’s what I took from the last release).
Where I live the line is distinct, there is no community radio that actually supports local music, there is no podcasters giving local music a reputation, or indie labels pushing local music to the radios and events. So from my perspective, there is a distinct hard line still prominent. Indie music or underground music or grassroots music is absolutely ignored in my geographic location.
Now in history, I think it’s been up to the artists to make the movement. For instance, I’ve only read about the early punk movement in the UK, the times of Sex Pistols and Generation X, and all of that, and the grunge movement out of Seattle seemed to be a snowball effect created by a bunch of artists. And obviously, that gained the attention of many a journalist.
Hence the “yet to be firmly named” 6530 project... To sign and distribute his music, I am currently in the process of opening a small local indie distribution label to sign it and other local underground music. This and 6530 are part of us trying to emulate one of these music revolutions at least for our local scene.

Give us some more details about the label and distributor you plan to open. What bands and projects in addition to yours will you be supporting through it, and what will your requirements for signing be, if any?
Essentially I first realized making a distribution label was probably beneficial for myself, as I’m already using the two available artist slots on my Distrokid distribution. Already we plan to release an ambient project with Ashe Burns, and the 6530 collaborations will need distribution. Instead of each artist needing a separate distro for one song (as most of these artists are not distributed yet) we can get them all on the label as and save perhaps hundreds in signup fees. So it’s mainly for my collaborations to begin with. I’m still researching what it takes to be a “good” indie label. And do want to expand it to other artists.
Early days and it really only has an art concept so far, I’m unsure of the prerequisites yet to join. An albums work of material would be a good start, and I think I’ll offer custom deals to suit the artists' budgets, i.e. free signup but a small split paid to the label, or signup fee nonsplits, plus a few services I’d add on like custom lyric video creation and art creation (unlike the cloned templates we all get from Distrokid). It’s not going to be genre specific, but I do want to concentrate on the rock genre as it feels more credible and real to promote what I like and have a little knowledge of. My dreams are always big and when I look at them I see I create a lot of work! Haha.

Where are you turning to for research on running a label and distro? Are you likewise researching promotion and advertising to push your work?
I am so far just observing other labels and will use good old google, and basically try to pick the brains of any others that may have advice or experience. I saw a short the other day that said education can be free if you know how to research. Though time is always a constraint... Right now I have no new solo material in the DAW, I do have a few inspirations for new music just nothing recorded yet.
There is a handful of new Abysmal Dimension songs and concepts, I just need to order my vocal zone tea and get to writing the words. That stuff is great for protecting the tubes when belting out death vocal... I hope that’s out before the end of the year. Also, there may be a cover made for an upcoming tribute album. But I can’t say too much about that.
All of my own music I hope is an example of not compromising the self, and I hope it’s no different moving forward. I’ve never written with the aim to please a scene or adhere to a genre. And I hope a little success in my camp provides an example that music can still be honest and successful, it’s not necessary to compromise the self.
I’ve looked into some artist promotions previously, and in honesty, it is difficult to pick the real methods and promoters vs the scam and bot stuff. One or two bad experiences with playlisting websites and freelance promotion have made me step back for now and try a new route. As it all seeks costly or ineffective. I think running some social media ads over Instagram and Facebook will be cool, a local zine/rag would be cool. At this point, it’s still only an art concept and feels a little like a pipe dream still. I need to build a social media presence, and an actual website, and get something to promote. Over the next few weeks, I think this will be more grown up. I do believe the label will be official this week with a little music on it. I’ll keep you posted.

Are you working on new material for your current projects or a few new projects? In what ways will future releases serve as an example for artists to express themselves and speak to listeners on that level rather than compromise themselves?
The future 6530 collaborations and jams are directed at allowing other local musicians to explore and hone their music in a live situation, hopefully providing a bunch of musicians to play "their" and "your" songs, and rehearse them, allowing the artist to hopefully reach levels they couldn’t reach alone. In 6530 we hope to be a network of original musicians, but not only players; the network of people would provide grassroots style support like private venue gigs, recording and production opportunities, and I hope to provide not only jamming space but also green screen and film/photography space. Plus offering distribution through the label, I’d hope it’s a one stop shop for indies to find artists, space, production, and distribution, all allowing them freedom in their creativity and showing them there is support. Hopefully provoking non compromising art.

-Dave Wolff

Monday, February 13, 2023

Interview with Ike Baestlein and Sean Teeter of Ike's Wasted World (third interview) by Dave Wolff

Interview with Ike Baestlein and Sean “Sarge” Teeter of Ike's Wasted World by Dave Wolff

How has your third full length “Tres Lobos” been doing since we discussed it in our interview a year ago?
Ike Baestlein: “Tres Lobos” is doing great. My friends at Nervous Breakdown Records from Portugal released it in conjunction with Half Beast Records from Portugal and did a great job on the packaging. We received a good amount of press in Europe, and the songs are going over great live. I'm happy to be working with Hugo at Nervous Breakdown again. He has released a good chunk of my catalog over the years. His past label Blood And Iron Records released albums by my bands Blind Legion, Lost Breed and Cardiac Noose. It's imperative to work with people who believe in you as an artist and Nervous Breakdown fills that need.

Can you tell me if there are any remaining recordings by Blind Legion, Lost Breed, and Cardiac Noose?
IB: All of the Lost Breed, Cardiac Noose, and Blind Legion releases are sold out, but you can probably score them online and I encourage you to do so. We ain't in it for the money, as always, we just try to spread love through rock and roll.

Today, do most of Blind Legion, Lost Breed, and Cardiac Noose's releases still reside on streaming outlets like Bandcamp and Spotify?
IB: Altogether I'm guessing I have released about fifteen albums, plus a few singles. The only band I have on Spotify is Ike's Wasted World. Ike's Wasted World is also on Bandcamp. My Ike's Wasted World Youtube page also has a bunch of Lost Breed and Cardiac Noose songs on it.

What release deal did you arrange with Nervous Breakdown? How does the new “Tres Lobos” package differ from the first?
IB: We have a good thing going with Nervous Breakdown; to me, they are Blood And Iron. In the underground, where we forever reside, it is best to work with people who dig your music. The new release has great graphics in a jewel case and it is remastered.

How long did it take you to find Nervous Breakdown? Is a Portuguese label presenting more chances for overseas exposure?
IB: It took a year for us to hook up with Nervous Breakdown, but we got shot down by a slew of labels within that time frame. I was lucky to reconnect with them. Underground music is a labor of love. The labels are run by passionate music fans who do it while working day jobs and they all deserve credit. We have already received attention in Europe. We recently got picked up on a radio channel from Scotland. We hope to play in Europe and if all the little things line up, I believe we can make it happen.

Does “Tres Lobos” receive more coverage in online or print zines and magazines?
IB: Most of our press is from bloggers, God love me, and we appreciate it, but Metalized Magazine in Denmark is doing a review on the record. They are like Circus or Hit Parader. And for the record, I have all kinds of outtakes, live recordings, and bonus songs in the vault. I sleep with them.

Did you snail mail your official press releases to bloggers or contact them online? How well established is Metalized and how much can they expand your fan base?
IB: Online. We have a killer press kit. It contains videos, songs, pictures, press releases, and interviews. It has everything you need to know about the band. Click a button and out it goes. Metalized has been around for many years. They recently contacted Ike’s Wasted World and it is a great-looking magazine. From what I understand European headbangers love it. I’m still trying to make my first million, but I've been told that I'm a dreamer. We will see what the future holds when it gets here.

Are you seeking additional US-based labels or labels from Canada and Mexico?
IB: I'm interested in Ripple Records. I have to talk to them and they passed on us, but I believe if we keep recording great music and play many shows they will come around. Canada and Mexico would be great. I should look into Canadian metal record labels. You got me thinking.

Where in Europe are you making arrangements to perform live?
IB: Germany for sure, but I'm getting shot down by some promoters. I'll keep trying.

How long has your drummer Sean “Sarge” Teeter been a band member? What is the story behind his nickname?
Sean Teeter: I’ve been in the band for about three years now. I heard about them through a former member of a cover band I was playing for and he thought I’d be a good fit. I hit the boys up, and they sent me some songs to learn, and I ended up getting the gig right then. It was a great fit and even though I’m twenty years their junior, I felt it was an excellent match and I’m proud of the songs we’ve written together and excited for the direction we’re heading. I got the nickname “Sarge” from being a Sargent in the US army. Only the guys call me that; everyone else just calls me Sean.

How many bands was Sean a member of before Ike’s Wasted World and how much experience does he have as a musician? How long did it take him to learn the songs he was given?
ST: I was in a local southern rock/country band called the Inner Bred Chicken Herders. Goofy name but it was a lot of fun. I’ve been playing drums since about age eight and I’m 32 now so 24 years. I’ve sung even longer than that and took college-level music theory classes in high school. It took me about a week to really get the songs I auditioned on solid. Then from there once I was official, it was a process to learn all the old material but if I remember right, it was about a month from when I joined to when we had our first gig with me.

How helpful were the music theory classes Sean took? Did you attend any music schools following high school? Do you have any self-taught experience?
ST: The music theory course was and is extremely helpful for the writing process. It allows me to understand where the melody is and what chords or time signatures would go best. Our song “Grass Grows Thick” is a perfect example of that. The main riff is in 9/4.
I went from high school right into the military so that’s as far as my education goes. I had a drum teacher for a few years from about 2003-2008, then I’ve just been doing self-taught since then.

How much of a hand has Sean had in writing the band’s material so far? Who is the band’s current bassist and how well do you work together?
ST: I help with the writing process just as much as the other members. Usually, it’s Ike creating a riff, bassist Chris Adamson helping with structure, and I helping with the beat and music theory part of it. There are a couple songs where I had an idea and sing it to Ike and we go from there. As far as working together I think the music we’re putting out speaks for itself. We all have different influences so it’s a perfect blend of what we like and what we want to create.

I heard Ritchie Teeter, the drummer of the Dictators is Sean’s uncle. Are there any stories Sean wants to relate to the readers, about how Ritchie Teeter helped get him into music, what bands he introduced him to, et cetera?
ST: Richie Teeter is in fact my great-uncle and one of my first vinyl records was the Dictators’ “Manifest Destiny”. Sadly I never got to meet my great-uncle. I can’t really say he was a huge influence, just a thing my Dad told me when I was younger. I was more inspired to play by guys like Buddy Rich, Mike Portnoy, Neil Peart, Phil Collins, and Brann Dailor.

What about the drummers Sean was inspired by gave him the incentive to become a drummer? Are there drummers in the stoner rock genre or any other he would consider inspirational?
ST: My drumming inspiration comes from all the types of music I like; jazz, progressive metal, straight rock, etc. I like and pull from everything. I would say the only genre I’m not a fan of is pop/ rap that’s out today. I’m more old school than most my age.
When I joined the band it was my first “stoner rock” experience so, no, I don’t pull from or know any doom or stoner rock drummers really. But that might be an advantage, I bring something different to the song writing process than most would think.

What equipment does Sean use most often? How do you go about deciding what equipment works best for you while playing with the band?
ST: As far as equipment, I’m not endorsed by anyone, I just use what my ears like and I think sounds best. I use a DW design series drum set, a custom Spaun maple snare drum, Meinl, Sabian, and Zildjian cymbals, Remo heads, Tama drum pedals, and Vater drum sticks. It’s all about sound and how my instrument can complement and contribute to our overall sound.

Are you planning for more collaborations with Scott "Wino" Weinrich of The Obsessed and St. Vitus after working on “Get Quarantined” together?
IB: I jam with Wino often. We'll see what the future holds. He has an open invitation at The Recording Company studio. Check out our Lost Breed videos on Youtube, not to mention Ike's Wasted World’s “Get Quarantined.” I'm thinking about covering a Dictators song. Maybe that one. We just covered The Obsessed tune “Be The Night.” Check it out on Youtube. Also, he has a video of us jamming in Woodstock on his website “New Terms”.

Did you check out Wino’s appearance on the Haunted Chapel Podcast when it aired a week or so ago? How much do you think podcasts help independent bands?
IB: Wino had some funny stories. Also, the Wino Documentary will preview at The Tinker Street Theater in Woodstock, New York on April 20, 2023. I'll be there with bells on.
Podcasts help infinitely. Plus, they are fun to do. It's usually like bullshitting with friends, plus you get to swear constantly.

Has Sean done any podcast appearances with Ike since he joined the band?
ST: I have a buddy that has his own podcast but we haven’t had our schedules lined up yet. Other than doing interviews and podcasts with the band as a whole, no.

Have you appeared at Maryland Doom Fest since Lost Breed played there, or other fests that promote metal, doom, and stoner rock?
IB: Lost Breed played Maryland Doomfest twice, in 2021 and 2022. They were my only appearances, and it was nice to get the old band together but, hopefully, next year Wasted World will be on the bill. I’m interested in playing Desertfest in London, also Ripplefest and Monolith on the Mesa.

Would there be any chance of reforming Lost Breed or Cardiac Noose or did their former members move on to new projects? Do their videos receive a lot of hits on your Youtube?
IB: Lost Breed might record again, but Wasted World is my focus and Cardiac Noose have no plans to do anything, but you never know. We do OK on Youtube. I really urge you to watch my videos. The latest Wasted World video was filmed at Wing's Castle in the Catskill Mountains, such a cool location. I filmed Wasted World's “Lady of the Blues” in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and Wasted World- “Dreams of Atlantis” on the streets of Manhattan in the pouring rain. An ambulance whizzed by to add to the ambiance. It was cold out and it fit perfectly with the song, a huge bonus. “Key of Satan” was filmed in Whitehall, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains.

What turnouts do those fests you mentioned draw each year? How many shows have Desertfest and Ripplefest held to date? Are those two local fests or do they have a chance to be picked up by major promoters?
IB: I am not sure what the attendance is, but they are pretty big. I mentioned them because we fit into the category. Stoner Rock and Doom Metal are terms I initially laughed at. Especially Stoner Rock. Shit, I thought all bands were stoned. Why do we have to be considered the burnouts? But "If the shoe fits...".The bottom line is it helps to market the band. So be i.e. are proud stoners.

How important do you think metal fests have become as far as helping unsigned bands?
IB: Well, playing Maryland Doom Fest led me directly to Nervous Breakdown Records, so, I think it is a great way to network the band. Everyone is in the same place at the same time, plus it is a big party, which is right up my alley.

Have any more vinyl record stores opened in the past year? If you still visit the stores that were open in 2022, what have you picked up lately?
IB: We have a few stores in the Albany area, The Re-Collector in Schenectady and The Last Vestige in Albany are my go-to shops. Record Riots are popping up all of the time. They are fun, too. Essentially, they are a swap meet or flea market for vinyl, if you did not already know. I got “James Brown Live”, “Steppenwolf Live” (the psychedelic one), a Twin Peaks DVD box set for my daughter, some weird Danzig “Cain” and a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins CD.

Do vinyl stores or Youtube present you with more opportunities to hear rare albums?
IB: Both are great. Youtube is endless and there is nothing better to me than spending the day looking for records. As kids, we based our weekends on it. There is nothing like holding the record in your hand for the first time.

You considered writing about the 70s serial killer Robert Garrows on the next Ike’s Wasted World album. Has this happened yet?
IB: I'm glad you mentioned Robert Garrows. I still have not written that song and I still have not seen the movie. I better get to work. We are in the studio now, working on three new tunes. I got killer guitar tone and Sean and Chris laid down some excellent tracks. Next up is lead guitar, vocals and whatever else we come up with.

What are some of the other ideas you’ve been considering for the next album in the past year?
IB: I'm writing a song now and it is top secret, but I'll send it to you when it is done.

Is this the first secret song you're working on for the next album or are there any others?
IB: We have the next record about halfway done. It will be finished this year. I’m always writing. I can’t stop.

Can you tell me about your sessions with producer Don Fury if you are still collaborating?
IB: We recorded two songs live in the studio with Don Fury. It went well. It was a free promotion and we took advantage of it. The song “Wild Dogs”, a Tommy Bolin cover, is on Youtube. His studio is really nice. It is in Troy, New York. He's into recording the whole band at once, which is cool to do once in a while, but I prefer recording at The Recording Company near Schenectady, New York. It’s pro tools and click tracks. We keep it as honest as possible.

How much input is Sean getting to channel into writing and composting for the next full length?
ST: As far as writing the next full length, we’re all equally involved. Sometimes that’s the benefit of being a power trio, we all pull the weight and all can come to decisions really quickly.

Are there any new developments you want to announce for the coming year, promotional videos, live online events, podcast interviews or anything else?
IB: Check out Ike's Wasted World on Spewtube, Stupify, and all the usual bollocks. Our latest video is "Be The Night" originally recorded by The Obsessed, and come see us live. That’s what we live for.

-Dave Wolff

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Single Review: Incognito Theory "Ride On (Featuring Sixty Miles Down)" (Ragebreed Records) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Location: Kearny, New Jersey
Country: USA
Genre: Southern groove metal
Format: Digital, video
Label: Ragebreed Records
Release date: January 23, 2023
First of all something needs to be said about this dope as fuck old school art Incognito Theory is bringing to the table here! Really kickass job to whoever decided on that! I know it's nothing original but very memorable nonetheless and the music really goes well with it! I’ve never heard of “Groove Metal” but if it's sexy ass tattoos and motorcycles I’m in! I listened to “Sunset Moonshine”, which seemed totally different. Both definitely have sort of an early 2000’s metal vibe that reminds me a lot of bands like Disturbed. -Brynn Kali StarDew

SongWriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9
Overall: 8.5

Review of Incognito Theory "Gravesland" single (Ragebreed Records/Global International UK) by Corban Skipwith
Review of Incognito Theory "The Brotherhood" full length (Ragebreed Records) by Dave Wolff

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Film Review: "Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror" (Snoopadelic Films Inc., Social Capital, BloodWorks, New Rebellion Entertainment) by Devin J. Meaney

Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror
With Snoop Dogg, Daniella Alonso and Anson Mount
Written by Jacob Hair and Tim Sullivan
Directed by Stacy Title
First release: Los Angeles Film Festival, June 27, 2006
Snoopadelic Films Inc., Social Capital, BloodWorks, New Rebellion Entertainment
I once again wanted to watch something of the cheesy variety, so I loaded up Tubi to see what I could find. There were tons of films that I knew wouldn’t even be watchable…but after some browsing something caught my eye. Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror seemed to be just what I was looking for, so I threw it on the TV screen and I was soon transported to a realm of cheesy humor, bad acting, low budget gore and hip-hop music. That might not sound like a fun time to some, but honestly, it was highly enjoyable and I daresay I might watch it a second time some day (or night) in the future.
Snoop Dogg’s Hood of horror is a film adaptation of a fictional comic book, and it presents itself as an anthology of three very short tales. Similar to Tales from the Crypt, it was a “secret” ninth film screened in the 8 Films to Die For film festival in 2006.
Now, this isn’t exactly something I would recommend to just anyone. There is plenty of cursing and nudity and violence, so I would only suggest this to a seasoned adult audience. And anyone looking for something with “good” acting or a perfect script shouldn’t watch this either…but to anyone with an interest in cheese horror, bad jokes, low quality splatter effects and Snoop Dogg, I’d say go for it.
Featuring many bigger names such as Danny Trejo, Diamond Dallas Page, Jason Alexander, and a slew of others, this film managed to not only be entertaining, but it far exceeded my expectations. A great watch for when indulging in “the reefer” (I don’t do that anymore but I still understand the vibes), a Halloween party, or even just a boring night home alone (or with friends), the hood of horror beckons those of us that understand a good time. Or maybe a bad time depending on perception…I guess?
Either way, watch this film (as long as you are 18 plus). I mean…who doesn’t love Snoop? –Devin J. Meaney

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Full Length Review: Kristopher Battilana "The Raven and the Robot" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarrDew

Artist: Kristopher Battilana
Location: Geraldton
Country: Western Australia
Genre: Post metal, rock, electro, goth
Format: Streaming
Label: Independent
Release date: October, 2022
I’m not sure who is on Kristopher Battilana’s team but this is really impressive if it is self-produced. I found the entire album very very intelligent and well-written as well as the music which accompanied it was very professional. I really don't have any particular track I enjoy more than any other, perhaps “Trinkets” or “The Mechanic”. This doesn’t speak for the truly amazing amount of art that has been contributed to this masterpiece. I really don’t want to try and speak for each track individually. These tracks weave together a tale that I don’t want to spoil for any readers. This is definitely something special and it deserves a bit more recognition in my opinion.
“The Raven and the Robot” is an extremely memorable original, I have never reviewed anything like this so I’m not sure what to say other than it kind of reminds me of bands like A Perfect Circle and perhaps I could say I can definitely see some similarities to the art as well. -Brynn Kali StarrDew

Track list:
1. Trinkets
2. The Robots Hold
3. My Feathered Friend
4. Slumber
5. Into the BlackHole
6. Twisted Metal
7. The Mechanic
8. Dayrise

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Interview with Mach FoX of Zwaremachine by Dave Wolff

Mach FoX

Interview with Mach FoX of Zwaremachine by Dave Wolff

Asphyxium zine reviewed Zwaremachine numerous times since 2018 (besides reviewing your other project Mach FoX). The band expects to begin recording its third full-length album soon. Could you tell us what you have planned for it and how it will compare to previous albums?
Thank you for your attention and time regarding our Zwaremachine independent music releases. We appreciate that support! For the next Zwaremachine album our bassist Dbot and I have just recently started writing some demos. I plan to get back into the electro-industrial/ebm style of the first album “Be A Light” which we promoted as “Minimal Hypnotic Industrial Body Music”. The songs we choose from our new demos will be evaluated to see if they can be performed in the live set and bring a deep impact on our audience as I specifically put Zwaremachine together to be a live performance band. We will still keep a dark electro edge and bring some modern production in as a way to push our sound forward. I expect this album will have some of the minimal hypnotic elements from our first album which I wrote and a bit of the progressive dark electro and driving modern ebm that was present on our second album “Conquest 3000” which was written by Dbot (Zwaremachine bassist), D.Corri (Zeven Odd Gods from Ireland), Henrik Punsch Johansson (Planktoon) and myself.

After Zwaremachine's debut recording, how much experimentation did you go through before returning to the original sound?
I don't think we will return to the sound of the first album since much of the hardware synths and drum machines will be different this time around... but I do want to bring back the minimal hypnotic vibe that comes with my own sequencing and songwriting approach. It should also be added that with the addition of Dbot on bass guitar and Dein Offizier on drums, it was important to have those elements strongly presented in the mix as they are a big part of what sets us apart from many other bands in our genre. On our second album, I had worked with two other producers (Planktoon and D.Corri) and co-wrote songs with Dbot to expand our sound into a more dark electro/ebm and modern style. The first album was written and produced by myself and I really did not have any focus on a retro electro-industrial sound but it turned out that way partly due to the synths, samples and other elements that were used and my sequencing techniques of writing longer patterns and then making short hypnotic loops for the arrangements.

What criteria will you use to select the tracks for the new full-length? How many demos were recorded for this project?
My main goal is to pick the songs that we think would be exciting and high-energy in the live playlist and would drive the dance floor. I consider us an electronic rock band and there must be room for the live bass guitar and drums to shine through. We are still in the demo process and figuring out the workflow of how to build those songs up and create our best album yet! If there are any strong demo songs that don't fit our next Zwaremachine album we will consider those for future Mach FoX releases and those may include Dbot and Dein Offizier.

Could you explain what modern production is and how it helps Zwaremachine's sound?
My ideas about modern production in regards to the Zwaremachine sound are not only in the EQ and mixing/mastering stages where I work with others to bring those sounds alive but also in the fact that arrangements can be refined after the initial recordings are made. I still want to give a nod to classic industrial/ebm bands while making sure we push forward and not rely on retro nostalgia. One of those modern techniques I like to use is digital editing both for arrangement and also as an effect... especially on vocals. This ability to arrange vocals and even the full song arrangements in the DAW is an approach that suits my experimental nature well when presenting our new music.

With your writing and sequencing techniques and the equipment you use, how do you plan to balance the minimal hypnotic vibe with your electro and ebm influences?
I tend to write longer basslines or drum and synthesizer sequences and then go back and shorten those parts to experiment with layers and create minimal repetitive lines and patterns that can be hypnotic at times. A formula I had adopted for earlier Zwaremachine writing was to loop these shorter sequences but also extend them in the song arrangement so that if I felt like a change should be after eight bars I would make a conscious effort to extend that part to sixteen bars. This technique is most present on our first album “Be A Light” and it was a way to step out from conventional pop song arrangements and try to present something unique.

How do you improve the sound and production of songs on your demos you want to include on the next album?
Right now Dbot and I are writing demos separately and then we will sort through and decide which ones are strong enough to be reworked for the album tracks. Since he uses mostly VSTs (virtual instruments) and I am using hardware there will be a bit of a challenge to take the ideas I have and bring them into the VST and midi world so that we can more easily arrange and change any sounds to improve and add to the production. After we have those songs ready I will be mixing them at The Terrarium recording studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota where we can make sure they hit hard for the dancefloor!

In what ways do Dbot and Dein Offizier help the band expand musically? What is the importance of finding a producer who is closest to your sound?
Since I consider our strength to be in the live sound we create as a trio there will be an emphasis on the bass guitar and drums to be forward in the mixes. This wasn't always the case on our past recordings as those instruments were often added later in the production stages and we had to find a way to make them work with the sequenced synth bass and drums. I am planning to produce these tracks myself but we will be mixing with Jason Orris who can bring the EQ and technical side of the production to a higher level. We did work with other producers on “Conquest 3000” which was then mixed by myself and Jason but I want to keep this album closer to home in the sense that the writing and production come from the band.

What are virtual instruments, and how do you manage to find a balance between VSTs, synths, midi instruments, and the organic instruments you record with?
VSTs are virtual software instruments often used in DAWs (digital workstations/recording software). I use hardware synths and samplers when writing and recording while Dbot is using mostly VSTs on his demos. One advantage of VSTs is that it is very easy to audition and change or swap out sounds, and since those VSTs are driven by midi notes you can also move those notes around and change a lot of the performance to suit the song best without committing to the sound and you recorded as you would with hardware synths. In the past, I have layered the live bass and drum parts on top of the sequenced synthesizers and drum machines and they were often doubling the programmed parts. My intention with the new album is to make every instrument track fit together in the mix while also having its own special sonic place to live in.

How much has your sound broadened since you started writing with VSTs? Can those devices generate sounds that come across as organic?
I prefer to use hardware and not VSTs but they can both sound great. Having hands-on control of the synth parameters and how they interact is part of the sound exploration that I enjoy and it can be done with VSTs but that just isn't part of my writing process these days. Most hardware and software instruments can reproduce organic sounds but I would rarely choose to use them in our productions since I prefer synthetic sounds.

Have you recorded at The Terrarium and mixed with Jason Orris on your past releases? If so, in what ways has doing so benefitted the completed product?
“Conquest 3000” was mixed at the Terrarium with Jason and I have mixed several other tracks there for Zwaremachine and solo Mach FoX releases. I look at this process a bit like changing the oil in my car... sure, I could do it... but there are professionals with all the right tools and equipment that have better skills. While I do come from a punk/DIY background mixing and mastering is something I prefer to have others involved with. Not only does it give an outside perspective to the sound it also is a way to make sure all the frequencies are in the right place. Since I consider Zwaremachine an electronic rock band I knew we would benefit from all of Jason’s experience in engineering, mixing, and producing, and considered the fact that he was not generally working with electronic artists to be an advantage for us. I want our mixes to stand out not only in the electronic genres but also in rock music in general with the guitars being replaced by synthesizers in our songs.

Is there a particular lyrical content you're writing to match the band's sound?
Many of my lyrics have a social or political aspect but many are based on horror, cyberpunk, and sci-fi themes. For instance, many of the songs and the title track for “Conquest 3000” were written by Dbot and when they were presented to me they already had titles that inspired the lyrical content. I am not sure there is a connection between the lyrical themes and our sound as a band as I have always written songs with those same topics in mind for Zwaremachine and my other band projects.

How did your lyrics fit with Dbot’s lyrics on “Conquest 3000” when it was being compiled? Did you have a method to make them complement each other? In what ways was this also done on your other releases?
In the demos that Dbot sends me there are no vocals or lyrics so I have complete freedom to write and sing in my own style for Zwaremachine. However, for his songs we used on “Conquest 3000” he did have titles for the demos and they were used to inspire the lyrics and even help form the entire concept storyline from that album. With our band releases, I stick to a certain performance style which I refer to as a layered “monotone monster voice” which is often distorted and aggressive. With Mach FoX releases which cover more genres, you will hear a bit more “singing” style and I let myself explore more melody in those performances. You can reference the recent Mach FoX collaboration I have done with synth-wave producer Maroco on the track “Now Beginning” where I even move into a bit of pop-style vocals while still keeping it a bit dark and melancholy.

What is some of the subject matter you wrote for your newer songs?
We are still producing demos for our next record; I have not started the lyric writing since that is usually the last step for the songs. I have many pages of lyrics I can get inspirations from and I imagine I will still explore those themes of modern society from a horror and sci-fi point of view. On “Conquest 3000” there was an overall concept and storyline but I don't think that will be the case with this new album.

What can you say about the lyrics you wrote for the band’s past songs? Talk a little about what you have penned in those pages you have saved? In what ways are they inspirational?
The main themes in Zwaremachine songs are science fiction and horror which unfortunately have also become parts of our modern-day society. The lyrics on our album "Conquest 3000" were based on a storyline about it being the year 3000 and after pollution, greed and war have devastated the earth most of the population had left the planet and left the rest to fend for themselves in a wasteland with little resources left that is poisoned by radiation.
The pages of lyrics I save are often a few lines that had a catchy turn of phrase or sometimes full songs with verses and choruses. These are often written quickly off the top of my head and inspired by real events, science and technology or books and movies. I will go back and pick a few lines to rework and refine when I am at the stage of song development when I want to add the vocals. I also like to use phonetics or the way certain words with the texture of the instrumental sound as a jumping-off point for lyrics and while I was editing the instrumental track “International Hero” I had moved a short drum part onto an empty vocal track that had a distortion effect on it and it suddenly sounded like the drum part was saying “you got a gun” so I then used that part in the song as a sample and also as an inspiration for what would become the song lyrics. I also keep the minimal approach for lyrics on most Zwaremachine songs and try to build around a strong line or theme that can be easy to sing along with but have a deeper or sometimes a double meaning. I don't want everything to be at face value of the words alone. On the title track of the first album “Be A Light” I used only one verse and five repeated choruses which seems like it may not work well but with the instrumental arrangement, it seemed to work as it was a popular song both live and on the album.

Is “Conquest 3000” meant to reflect any current world events? What events, books or movies are the lyrics in your pages based on?
That album was written as a mostly fictional story set in the year 3000 and the album was released in 2021... So much has changed and much is the same. I doubt we will ever make it to the year 3000 on this planet the way we are managing earth's resources and with the political climate but if we do it will probably be a bleak scenario like many of the songs on the album. Those lyrics and songs are bits from many science fiction movies and books woven together into a new storyline about corporate greed, pollution, body modifications and the human conditions in a society and world that has little resources and those left on the planet are forced to scavenge and fight for what little is left. These situations will most likely happen sooner than later!

What were some of the books and movies you borrowed from while writing “Conquest 3000” and what about them helped inspire the story you were putting together? Are listeners responding in any way to the statement you’re making about the world’s current state?
Movies like “Mad Max”, “Soylent Green”, “Hardware” and so many others that have post-apocalyptic or cyber themes. The “Conquest 3000” storyline has its own twist and I would encourage people to give it a listen if they want to dig deeper as it isn't really based on a specific movie or book but references many of those ideas from iconic sci-fi movies. I think most reviewers and listeners picked up on the overall concept and got the general tone I was going after with those lyrics.

How much do you think the twist in “Conquest 3000” will come as a surprise to people who take the time to dive deeply into the storyline?
Since I wrote and sequenced the running order of the album it is a very clear story line for me to follow. I am not sure how others will put the story together in their head when listening to the full album but we did print the lyrics in the CD artwork so that may help.

What melodic styles do you usually adapt while recording with Mach FoX? Are your vocals for Zwaremachine generally rougher, rawer, or more aggressive, or what moods are you looking to evoke in them?
With Mach FoX songs and collaborations, I often explore more melodic and even softer styles of singing and allow myself more freedom in terms of effects and harmonies. There is a melancholier and more human vibe when I am doing Mach FoX songs and I am also allowing a little bit more of myself to come through in those moments where I consider my voice in Zwaremachine to be more limited and a character that I play. When I write and sing for Zwaremachine it is usually the more aggressive approach with heavy effects like distortion or delay and many layers and I am also considering what can work in the live setting. There have been several Zwaremachine songs that are rearranged slightly from the album for the live versions as I realize the spacing of words needs to change so I can get in some breaths while I am stomping around and head banging on stage.

How do you go about deciding which vocal style fits Zwaremachine and Mach FoX songs? Does it depend on the song or do you go with what you feel?
There is a defined sound I focus on for Zwaremachine vocals while Mach FoX tracks are usually a bit more melodic and it really depends on the genre when choosing a singing style... so the song does often dictate my vocal approach.

Do you think you can recreate live what you’re doing in the studio?
It is actually the opposite... the goal is to recreate and capture our live sound in the studio. The first Zwaremachine album was written and arranged during a time when I was able to try out the songs during live performance sets and get a feel for the energy and crowd response. There were several songs that I liked but they did not have the vibe I was trying to present on stage so those were considered outtakes and I spent time arranging and sequencing the songs that would become the album “Be A Light”. Right now, we don't have the option to rework the songs in a live setting as one of the members is in the Netherlands so I just have to go with my instinct and try to imagine how they would be on stage. The volume and intensity of our live performance will be a key factor in selecting which songs make the cut on this new album.

How much do you think audience participation has to do with your intensity onstage? Or is it generally consistent from show to show?
We would perform with the same intensity to a festival crowd as we would to a crowd in a small venue and it is always a thrill to see fans singing along and excited about our music. I put Zwaremachine together with the purpose to be a live performance band so we bring everything we have to each show. When on stage I really enjoy looking to my right and seeing Dbot banging his head and then looking to my left where Dein Offizier is pounding on his drum and mouthing the words to our songs.

Do you get chances to preview songs from the next full length when playing live? If so which of them receive the biggest response?
I was able to do that on the first Zwaremachine album but it is not possible right now so our shows are few and far between. After the new album is recorded, we may book some shows later this year and possibly add something from that new album into the set. Since we wrote and released music during the Covid shutdowns we still have our last album to promote so it's not a priority to fit new songs into the set list and we want to give "Conquest 3000" some time to be taken in by fans during our live shows as it was the first album recorded as a trio.

How often do you get to correspond between the US and the Netherlands? How is live chatting going as far as sharing ideas?
We talk as often as needed and mostly those discussions are about upcoming rehearsals and live shows when we are in the preparation stages for gigs. Since the bassist and I do the songwriting and I have a defined idea about our sound on the next record we mostly have discussed the songs that inspire us and that we think can be influential to our new recordings whether it is a particular rhythm in the drum parts or an overall texture and sound in the production by other artists. We do want to develop our own sound with the new music and production so when we do reference another artist's song, we still want to do our own version instead of mimicking something already done. We also can chat about which songs can or can't be performed in the live set for various reasons.

Besides the work you’re doing with Zwaremachine’s new album, how soon do you expect to work on new material with Mach FoX?
I have currently been working on many collaborations with music producers from around the world and have some new Mach FoX music being released soon in genres other than dark electro/ebm. I am currently finishing up vocal production on a synth wave/synthpop EP with Maroco from Portugal and we released our first single collaboration already as Maroco & Mach FoX. There has also been a single released as Mach FoX & Zeven Odd Gods which is the title track from our debut three-song EP which will be out February 3 and is titled “A Sickness”. This EP is written and produced with D.Corri who is a music producer from Ireland who I worked on The Zwaremachine “Ripping At The Fabric” EP with and we continue in the hard-hitting ebm/electro-industrial style. The most recent collaboration is recording vocals for a lo-fi pop-punk EP with more details to follow... and that has been a lot of fun since I am getting back to my early band roots and there are some rocking guitar riffs and cool melodies to work from. I also do remixes for other artists as Mach FoX when requested but those are not a high priority at this time. After these recent collaboration tracks are mixed and mastered, I will be focusing only on the Zwaremachine album. The process of writing and exploring these other styles in collaborations will also benefit our Zwaremachine album since I am getting a workflow and template set up for the album session and exploring combinations of effects and layers for recording my vocals.

Will all these new projects be released on the same label as Zwaremachine? In what ways will they stand out individually from all other genres?
The Mach FoX collaboration EPs I am currently working on will be digital releases on all major platforms and also available from the Mach FoX Bandcamp page. Some singles from those EPs are already released and available there.
With these recent collaborations, the instrumental parts of the song are already written and that dictates the genre so I try and write lyrics and have the performance match that style while still imparting my own character into that vocal performance and production. Right now, I have a modern ebm/tbm/electro-industrial EP with Zeven Odd Gods coming out to celebrate International ebm day 2023, a synth wave/synthpop EP with music producer Maroco from Portugal, and a batch of songs from a collaboration with SonikDevil (USA) which range from pop-punk/powerpop to industrial rock... so those may become two separate EPs as we are still finding what works on the songs as we continue to record and mix them.

How do you expect Maroco will help you improve your sound and how will this lead to increasing your fan base?
Maroco produces his own instrumental tracks so I am not involved in his sound choices. I am providing lyrics, vocals and my vocal production for this collaboration. I am interested in producing music in many styles and have already seen our synthpop/synthwave collaboration song on many playlists from DJs who usually support my dark electro/ebm releases so that was a pleasant surprise. We have a couple more songs in final stages of production and intend to have a Maroco & Mach FoX EP out in spring 2023. I think there is a lot of crossover in fan bases and most people just want good songs and are not hung up too much on genres nowadays.

Mach FoX & Zeven Odd Gods - A Sickness The Mach FoX & Zeven Odd Gods debut 3 song EP will be released on February 3rd 2023. Modern EBM/TBM/Electro-Industrial.

Maroco & Mach FoX - Now Beginning Released January 6th 2023. Synthwave/Synthpop.

Mach FoX official website: https://machfox.bandcamp.com
Mach FoX Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/machfox
Mach FoX Twitter: https://twitter.com/machfox

Zwaremachine official website: http://www.zwaremachine.bandcamp.com
Zwaremachine Twitter: https://twitter.com/zwaremachine

-Dave Wolff