Friday, 7 December 2012

Interview with American Heritage



Today on Sludgelord it is my honour to be interviewing Scott Shellhammer and Adam Norden members from one of the best kept secrets in the Sludge Metal world – American Heritage.

If you don't know who these guys are then your missing something truly special. American Heritage have been around since 1997. Their hard-hitting blend of Progressive Sludge Riffs make these guys a force to be reckoned with.

They have shared the stage with some of the scenes must legendary bands. And their last album – Sedentary – received acclaim all over the place. As it's a brutal and uncompromising album that you should all check out now.

Plus the record features Mastodon's Bill Kelliher, Black Cobra's Rafa Martinez, and Buried at Sea's / Minsk's Sanford Parker.

Now it's finally being released on Vinyl courtesy of Solar Flare Records and Prototype Records.

Now lets talk business with the fucking brilliant – American Heritage

Q1 ­ Hi Guys, Thanks for doing this. How are things with you guys Today.

Scott: I'm exhausted. Just got back on doing some fill-in guitar for another band on tour. Longest 10 day tour in the history of touring.

Adam: Things are pretty great with me. I just got married and I also have a job that doesn't suck, so it's hard to complain.


Q2 ­ For people not in the know can you give them a brief history of the band and how it came about.


Adam: It goes back to about 1996, when Scott and I got together with Andrei, the original guitarist, and wrote some crazy instrumental tunes. I was in Grout Villa, and Andrei and Scott were in Tetsuo together. For no good reason I can remember, that fizzled out after we played one gig.

Then Mike, who was in Grout Villa with me, began playing with me and Andrei. We did a couple records, toured a bit, went to the U.K. and Europe, and went on like that until about 1998 or 1999 or something, at which time Scott finagled his way back into the band as a guitarist. We were an instrumental four-piece for a while, did some tours, put out some records, etc.

Andrei quit the band, and I decided to play guitar and start to try to put some vocals to our music. Since then it's been a challenge to hold onto bass players, I think because being a bass player in American Heritage is a lot of work and the pay is lousy. Currently our bass player is Erik Bocek, I think, if he continues to show up. We've known him for a long time. He was the bassist for Tetsuo.

Q3 ­ How would you describe your sound.

Adam: I don't fucking know, it's a little bit metal, a little bit hardcore, a little bit mathy, a little bit goofy. We just play what we like.

Q4 ­ Which bands and artists influence you directly as musicians.

Scott: This question is always tough. Black Flag. Dismember.

Adam: Neil Young, Schlong, King Crimson, Plaid Retina, High on Fire, Subhumans...


Q5 ­ Are you all full time musicians or do you have regular jobs to pay the bills.

Scott: Neither. Are you hiring? I am an artist and do a bunch of illustration work for bands and sell my paintings in galleries and such. More info here if anyone gives a fuck: http://www.scottshellhamer.com

Adam: Being in a band costs a lot of money, so I have to work even more to pay for all this shit. Going on tour costs a lot of money, having a car to haul around your shit, practice space, equipment, merch, all that shit costs a lot of money and there is no money to be had from playing music like this. It only costs money. A lot of it. So much that it can affect the rest of your life negatively. We are morons for even trying.

Q6 ­ Are your family and friends supportive of your music.

Scott: I think my family is supportive of me being creative and not supportive of the type of work I create. My friends are totally supportive even if I¹m creating shit that isn¹t their thing.

Adam: Err, kinda. My family knows I play music. They are aware. My friends are all in bands and broke too, so I suppose they're as supportive as they can be.


Q7 ­ What is the song-writing process in the band. Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual.

Adam: We throw riffs at each other and argue about them. Then Mike decides how the song goes. Then we spend a year trying to remember how to play the song that Mike knows.

Sedentary cover art

Q8 ­ I know Sedentary came out last year. But what a fucking record. That is your best work so far. You must be pleased with the reception it received from fans and critics alike.

Scott: Thanks a lot man. Sure. I mean this band sort of exists in a vacuum, so it¹s hard to gauge what any of that really means. That said, it¹s always nice to have people say positive things about something you dumped a ton of time, effort, and money into.

Adam: I think by far it's been our best one yet. I'm really happy that a lot of people who hear it seem to appreciate it.

Q9 ­ How did you get that amazing line-up of guest musicians to feature. Must of been cool to work with those guys.

Scott: We asked. Honestly it¹s really that simple. We¹ve been a band for 15 years or so. You end up meeting a lot of people along the way. Most of them are seasoned musicians so they were all really easy to work with.

Q10 ­ Is there a scene for Sludge/Doom/Stoner bands to perform in your home town on a regular basis. Or do you have to travel further afield to perform on a regular basis.


Scott: We have to travel to do anything and none of it is on a regular basis. Our drummer lives in Georgia and the rest of us live in Chicago. We only get to practice once every three months or so. As far as the scene here... It¹s not particularly my cup of tea. I dig Sweet Cobra and a handful of others, but in general it¹s music that is made for someone that has different tastes than myself. 

Adam: Sure, there are many places for bands like this to play in Chicago. We don't play a ton these days, but when we do, we try to make it special.

Q11 ­ Do you have any interesting and exciting stories from tour. Have you toured with anyone famous. If so who have been your fave band to perform for/with.

Scott: We don¹t really tour any more. We¹ve played with so many awesome bands over the years, it¹d be hard to single a few out.

Adam: We've played with a lot of bands that are and were fantastic, but I'm not gonna name-drop. That's really not how we do things. Except for Keelhaul. They are the greatest. There are a million tour stories, if only we could remember them all. Playing in Ireland for nobody, that was cool. Pushing a Dodge van we were touring in off of the ferry at Calais was a memorable first step on the continent. It's a lot of memories of driving for hours and hours and then waiting for no one to show up, peppered with a few shows where everyone went apeshit.


Q12 ­ What are your favourite bands around at the moment. Do you listen to modern day rock/metal or do you just listen to the classic era of Stoner/Sludge/Doom Metal.

Scott: I¹ve been listening to old Scorpions and Yes mostly. But I spin Asva, Astra, Graveyard, Nails, Early Graves, Enabler, Plague Dogs, Horrendous, Bastard Priest, Trap Them, on the regular.

Adam: I can't even say.

Q13 ­ What are your views of blogs such as Sludgelord featuring and reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines? Has your music reached the mainstream mags, at home or around the world?

Scott: It¹s really so hard for me to see the results of the press we get. Millenarian had more of the ainstream press than Sedentary but I don¹t see how it¹s affected the band at all as far as popularity. We¹ve played one show this year... It¹s not in our face.

Adam: Any press is good press, my man. I'm too busy with other shit to worry too much about the business end of being ion a band.

Image of American Heritage - Sedentary 12" Vinyl

Q14 ­ Now Sedentary is being released on Vinyl. Bet you guys are excited about that. How did that come about with you guys hooking up with Solar Flare Records and ProtoType Records.

Scott: Honestly I¹m not really sure. There was another label that was set to do the Euro vinyl and that fell through. Solar Flare stepped up and were really great to work with. Shit and Piss colored vinyl? YES PLEASE!

Adam: I am excited. I didn't know it was shit-and-piss colored. Bonus!

Q15 - What are your future plans for the upcoming 12 months or so. Anything we should be excited about.

Scott: We¹ve been working on a new EP. We¹re hoping to have that out in mid 2013.

Adam: We will also play a show or two somewhere. Mark your calendars.


Q16 ­ What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band.

Scott: Most - Playing shows. Least - Not being able to be an active band that plays shows.

Adam: I like playing shows too. I also like writing music with these knuckleheads. The least rewarding part is how much it costs. Seriously, it fucks up your life.

Q17 ­ Does it surprise you that people buy merchandise from you guys.

Scott: They do? Since when?

Adam: I too have not seen this. We do have a box or crate or something with merch in it.

Q18 - Finally, Do you have anything to say your fans

Scott: Sorry.

Adam: Let us have a beer. You, me, together.


Well guys thanks for the cool interview. Can't wait to hear the new release in 2013. Good luck for the future and all the best from Sludgelord.

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