Being tasked with describing bands is often a fraught and ambiguous task, and yet when we are looking for new tunes, it is the first thing we ask, what do they sound like or who can you compare the band too. It is often easy, and yet there is always a curveball, a band which is not easier definable or pigeonholed, simply because there are bands who are sound like no other.
Enter Scientist. A 3 piece instrumental band. Who simply put are an indefinable metal juggernaut.
With their roots firmly embedded within the Chicago metal scene and featuring ex founding members of the band Yakuza, I knew this debut S/T album was going to be something special. So when I found their album in my in box, I was immediately drawn to the record, being a massive Yakuza fan. Simply put Scientist is just a brilliant record and given my love of the record, I immediately hooked up with Eric Plonka (guitarist/founding member) to get the low down on how Scientist was created, their views on the changes in the music industry and why his guitar tone is such a secret.
SL) Eric, welcome to the Sludgelord. First of all, thanks for reaching out to us and sending us the record for review. You guys, cool? How are things in the Science Lab at the moment?. What are your immediate plans for the rest of 2013?
Eric Plonka) You are very welcome, we love Sludgelord!! Hail!!! Things in the lab are great; we always have something cooking on the bunson burners! Our plans for the rest of ‘13? Not sure.... whatever comes. We’re a big "off the cuff" type of band. We don't plan very far ahead of ourselves but I imagine new songs and gigs. You know the regular stuff.
SL) Before we get onto the good stuff, (taking about your excellent debut record), Can you perhaps give us an idea of the roots behind the band? Who are you, that kind of thing? It is your opportunity to tell the world about yourselves.
EP) Well, I’m Eric Plonka, guitar player and sometimes vocalist. I’ve been playing the Chicago circuit for a very long time... I won't say HOW long but, long enough.... I’ve been in a lot of bands but most note worthy would be 'Yakuza' (Profound Lore) I was the original founding member and played on the first two albums 'Amount To Nothing' and 'Way Of The Dead' (Century Media). I started Scientist with my friend and drummer Justin Cape who was the drummer in our old band 'Fire Is Born' he also was in 'Raised On Zenith'. We originally started out as just the two of us. We played like that for the first year until we did a demo and I put bass on it and we were like "So that’s what that sounds like..... We NEED that!'' Just so happens our guitar player from Fire Is Born, Patrick Auclair was recording this demo and was like 'I’ll play bass, this stuff rules!' and so it was. Even though he never played bass before! He jams too! Both of those guys do, I’m super lucky to have these guys in this band. We work really well together.
SL) Chicago is a mecca it seems for heavy music, what was it like growing up in your hometown and being fans of rock / metal for example?
EP) Growing up in Chicago was awesome, so many great local bands to see. When I was younger it was mostly punk and hardcore though, Sharon Tate’s Baby, Tyrants Reign, Salem Cross, Wrath, The Gruesomes and The Black Muslims were some of my favorite local metal/crossover bands back then. Also lots of skinheads and the sort. It was awesome; I had some of the best times back then... I started to see more and more metal bands around 1991 or 1992. Bands like Wicker man, and God Box were among the first to breakthrough the punk thing and start to change the scene but now, the metal scene has exploded in Chicago. Bands like Nachtmystium, The Atlas Moth, Minsk and Yakuza are doing great things to put Chicago on the map. Those are the more well known of the metal bands though. There are literally hundreds of other local metal bands in this great city HUNDREDS!!! Taken By The Sun, Electric Hawk, Pale Horseman, Johnny Vomit, Ox King, Making Ghosts, and Of Wolves are to name a few of my favourites. I could go on and on though... Did I go off topic? I think I answered the question right? Meh.... I do that sometimes.
SL) The songs are named after elements of the periodic table and you called yourselves Scientist, your music is certainly not easily definable or categorised, what’s the deal, are you guys the next Stephen Hawkins? Are you a concept band, because the record titles and names lends itself to such a view?
EP) You know what, now that I think about it. Yes, we are definitely NOT a concept band. Hahaha. Had you going there right? The name just came about. It was a band name I kept hidden for a long time that I thought would be cool. We wanted something that was easily remembered and a word you hear often. I feel it's the perfect name for us seeing as how we like to experiment musically. The periodic table thing I just thought would look cool. Just kind of came up with it looking for artwork for the CD, Justin was worried it might come off as pretentious and 'douchey', Lol. But after seeing it on the CD, we loved it and it just fits. No one remembers song titles any ways really. In hindsight though, I wish we would have gone into the studio knowing all this and we could have went with the concept album thing. I love those.
SL). Which band or artist turned you guys onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal/Rock and wanting to form a band?
EP) Me personally, I’ve been in bands as long as I can remember. Since I was 15. My main influences were local. Johnny vomit, Ozfish, Internal Bleeding and others would do these gigs at local VFW’s and we would go and mosh and drink and I was just like 'this is the coolest! I’m gonna do this!' so, I did. But it wasn't until years later like, 1990 or 1991 I was at a loft party and seen a band called Godbox. THAT'S the very moment I was like I want to do THAT! That’s when I got serious about writing songs and learning my instrument which was bass guitar then. I didn't even pick up a guitar (6 string) until I was 27 and started Yakuza almost the very next day. Another giant influence was Don Caballero. I accidentally seen them in 1993 at a local club in Chicago and could NOT fucking believe what I was witnessing. That’s when I started to get experimental with playing. Later bands like Meshuggah, Gojira, Tool, Eyehategod and Napalm Death influenced me even further. These bands all definitely had major influence on Scientist
SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult has it been it for Scientist to get coverage? Was your association with Yakuza a help or a hindrance?
EP) Yakuza has been very little help to me so far; it’s gotten me some things easier than if I was never in the band, but so far not a whole lot of help. Though I wish it was. We’ve only been a band for almost three years though and only a three piece for a year or so now so, time will tell. Definitely not a hindrance though. My main motivation to start Scientist was just to do it, you know? It’s what we all love to do.
SL) What was your motivation to start Scientist?
EP) It’s just that thing I want to do, I can't NOT do it. I’ll be relaxing at home and I’ll just feel this song working It's way out of my body and I have to get up and write it or it will make me actually physically sick be it a keeper or not. Is that weird? I took a lot of time off after I split with Yakuza and it was always there poking my brain and pushing me to start another band. I joined another band after Yakuza, 'Fire Is Born' playing bass. That’s where I met these guys. But, as much as I loved that band (they were awesome) I NEEDED to play my own stuff. As far as Yakuza having a hand in moulding Scientist, absolutely not. Maybe when we were just starting out when we were moulding the band but now, it is its own animal.
SL) You worked with Sandford Parker, an established/renowned producer and musician, with a guests spots from Yakuza and The Atlas Moth. What can you tell us about the writing and recording process? What are your overall thoughts about having it out in the public domain?
EP) Working with Sanford was cool; Justin and Patrick are actually friends with him. That’s how we got in with him. I tried to play my 'Yakuza Card' with him and got shot down at first try, trying to get into his studio. Although Sanford’s and my old band used to do a lot of gigs together back in 'the day'. The writing process consists of me writing at home then, bringing it to those guys and going from there and see if they say, hell yea! Or no,no,no, dude that sucks, Lol. Those two have a lot of input and a lot of great ideas. The songs on the CD are already so old to us! It took 9 months from recording day 1 to CD in hand. Our next recording we will know what not to do you know? We love the public domain thing. Although me personally, miss the days of just CD's and flyers and the street level things that go with that. The computer world is a blessing and a curse for musicians.
SL) As music fans yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, it is important to offer a great package to your fans, and yet not alienate them by producing something which is not affordable. Taking the release as a whole, how much involvement did you have in terms of overall package? You’re a DIY band right?
EP) We did everything ourselves. We really need help with this stuff though. We really need to find a good label as a home so we can really begin to spread our wings musically and not have to worry so much with the business end. I spend hours everyday trying to get things done for Scientist and it's really frustrating at times and tends to kill that creative spark I need to do the rest (and the best) part of the band.
SL) There some controversies this year in terms of expensive record releases and another irritant for me is meet and greets, or VIP packages, seemingly it is more difficult for bands to make a living, but is this asking too much of fans ?
EP) The VIPs thing, the meet and greet thing in my opinion is yes, asking too much of your loyal and also broke and starving fans. I could rant for an hour about 'the right and wrong' way to do such things and the morality of it all but, these things are best left to anonymous emails and blog posts. You need extra money? Get a job. Period. I have one.
SL)Steering away from the record a little, I’m assuming all musicians like to talk about the gear they use, so with that in mind what do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?
EP) My tuning shall always remain untold. I’ll take it to my grave, SOOOOO many people always asking me after gigs "What do you tune to?" ''What is that tuning"? Ever since the Yakuza days. I made it up. But, I will say this; I approached my tuning like a cave man. Meaning if a cave man found a guitar and no one told him how to tune it, what would he do? hahaha. Caveman Scientist. Gear wise, I play a Washburn P3 guitar with an EMG gold 85 pick up. It’s the first guitar I used to learn how to play 6 strings. I worked for Washburn Guitars for 11 years. I use two heads and two cabinets live, a Peavey 6505 and a Bugera 6260 and split them with an a,b,y, switch. and various delay and wah pedals.
SL) Has their been much opportunity for Scientist to do live shows and is playing live important to you, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc?
EP) When we started we gigged as often as possible to get the experience. Now, we do maybe once a month. We haven't toured but, we did play SXSW this year.... we all have jobs that would allow us to tour if need be. I absolutely love playing live; it's my favourite part of being in a band. But, if you play 19 gigs a month and hog all the shows, no one is going to want to see you anymore and you’re going to piss off the other local bands trying just as hard as you are to do their thing.
SL) Continuing on the theme of playing live, if you can have your own version of Woodstock, who would have on the bill and why?
EP) I hate hippies so, no Woodstock’s. EVER.
SL). Reflecting upon your time together as a band and active musician, what have been some of the high and low point in your careers?
EP) Oh God, I’ve had so many highs and lows in my "Career'' (lol) I can write a book and just might someday.... for instance after Yakuza I was homeless for two years fucking rock bottom man. Just a horrible horrible time in my life. But I punched and kicked and clawed my way out of that pit and have the best life ever now. I’m super happy nowadays.
SL) How valuable are blogs and social media?
EP) Blogs suck, haha and social media is alright. It’s the way to do it now ya know? It took me forever to give in to it. I still want to go out and hand out flyers and put up posters and do the footwork but, that’s just not how it's done in 2013. I got with the times bro...Lol.... I don't want to be that guy in Logan’s Run where all of a sudden he's the geezer and everyone wants to eat him for not getting with the program (I know, I know, don't send emails that I got it wrong). Soilent Green is people!!!!!
SL) Quick fire question, what’s your preference? Cassette, CD, Digital Download or Vinyl? And why?
EP) Meh, whatever gets Scientist to the Soilent Green is ok with me. I like CD's because I can jam them in my van and whip the ones I don't like out the window!
SL) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans and what can we expect from Scientist, in the future, new record? Tours?
EP) Sure man! Um, we love Soilent Green? Look us up on www.scientistchicago.bandcamp.com www.reverbnation/scientistheband
and www.facebook.com/scientist.chicago for dates merch etc. Rock on! We can't wait to get across the pond and live on The Sludgelords floor for weeks!! Fish and chips gov'na? Lol. You the man Sludgelord keep doing your thing!Rock
Words and Interview by : Aaron Pickford
Big shout out to Eric from Scientist for originally reaching out to us and presented us with such a fantantic record. Pleasure to have discovered this band and Eric is a genuine salt of the earth dude. Check em out. Review due soon of their debut record. In the meantime, listen to the record below.
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