Today on Sludgelord, I am interviewing a band who I am a huge fan of and that I haven't featured on the blog yet. Shame on me. But now I am going to change all that by doing this interview with them as I know they have a huge amount of fans of the blog.
Ladies and Gentlemen it's my pleasure to be speaking to French Stoner Metallers -MARS RED SKY – who have made a name for themselves over the last few years thanks to their mouth watering style of Stoner Metal which includes Doom, Drone, Psych Rock and even Shoegaze. It gives their music a truly hypnotic edge.
I urge you all to check out their brilliant 2011 S/T debut album and their recent 2013 EP – Be My Guide. Plus they released as superb split release Sludge/Doom Metallers – Year of No Light.
So I have been given the chance to speak to these hugely talented French Stoner Rockers. Lets see what they have to say.
1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today. Thanks to talking to us at Sludgelord HQ.
Mat : I'm good thank you, we're just back from Spain where we played 4 shows, we took the road back home right after the last show in Madrid so today i'm chilling out, and answering your questions!
2 – Can you give our readers a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.
Julien: The band started as a duo five years ago. Benoit Busser and I wanted to play together, we had a vision of what we wanted to do but eventually ended up doing something totally different when I brought in a couple of heavy, fuzzy riffs that perfectly suited Ben's 70's style of drumming. I had been singing in bands for years so I just tried and sung very naturally on top of the music we were making and it created this nice contrast between the low, heavy detuned guitar riffs , Ben's heavy and loose drumming and the high-pitched, eerie vocals. Jimmy joined in on bass right away after our third rehearsal, and there we were: we had found our sound, it was as simple as this. Two years ago Ben decided to quit, and Matt joined in. That was a blessing, a fresh new start. We hit it off right away, and became a very tight three-piece. He totally got the mood of the music and brought in his specific style, wich is crucial now in this band.
3 – So. Lets start off with your sound. How would you describe your sound. As you guys include a lot of different styles.
Mat : I like to say it's a mix between Black Sabbath and Simon and Garfunkel, you can call us Simon Sabbath, no problem ! Or we can say we play Heavy Psychedelic Rock, you can go for Doom Pop if you like. But you're right we all listen different kind of music, from 60's Pop to Black Metal so in a way or an other it might influence our sound.
Julien: When we started Ben had been playing in a math-rock band, I was in a couple of pop/folk/rock bands and was starting my solo project, Jimmy had played in pop/experimental bands... We've always been very open-minded having played and listened to so many kinds of musics and however we came up with our sound, there's never been any boundary or a textbook, a recipe. At the very beginning we were a two-piece so I had tuned my guitar very low, a weird open-tuning. That's one of the major ingredient of our sound. We were using good old big muffs on both guitar and bass when Jimmy joined in, Whah and rev/delay on the guitar leads... Of course over the following months we got more specific, especially Jimmy who tried several amps and pedals but we came up with the core of our sound very quickly and naturally.
4 – Which bands and artists influenced you all as musicians.
Mat : We all agree on The Melvins, Sleep, Black Mountain, King Crimson, Witch, Black Sabbath... Then the 3 of us have different influences, I'm a big Springsteen's fan. I love Hank III, The Jesus Lizard, Van Halen, Helmet, Allman Brother Band, 38 Special, Entombed, Deep Purple, The Beatles, Tool, Behemoth...
Julien: I'm really into folk, from Nick Drake to Neil Young, The Incredible String Band, Judee Sill... all the British Invasion era (Beatles, Kinks, Who...), Big Star, Beach boys, etc... Robert Whyatt, Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd... Sleep, Electric Wizzard, Titan, Earthless and most of the bands on Tee Pee Records, Bardo Pond...When I was a kid I was a huge fan of Hair Metal bands such as Poison, Guns & Roses, Def Leppard, then Metallica, Anthrax and Motorhead... When Nirvana came in the picture everything changed for me, like for a lot of people of my generation. I was 13... I then discovered Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, My Bloody Valentine (wich is one of my biggest influences still to this day, there's a lot of it in MRS).
5 – Apologies for not including you on the blog before. But I am a huge fan indeed. Has the reception from the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community impressed you. As you guys have received a great response from them.
Julien: No need for apologies! We're very grateful indeed, we were surprised and very happy to get such a positive response, not only from our friends and fellow bands around Bordeaux, but also from people all over the world! Great reviews on blogs, invitations to play really cool festivals, in countries such as Poland, Germany, England, Brazil, Greece... All the people from this community we had the chance to meet are so nice, passionate, it's really a pleasure and an honor to be accepted and appreciated by people who know much more about all this scene than we do. We therefore had the chance to play with a lot of great bands such as Kadavar, Samsara Blues Experiment thanks to Sound Of Liberation for instance.
6 – What made you decide to become a musician. Any particular band or life changing event.
Mat : After seeing The Jesus Lizard and Fugazi in the same week when i was 14 years old, I knew I wanted to be a musician. Those 2 concerts was worth for years of practices.
Julien: My family and I moved to Detroit when I was eight. We lived there for two years, and that's when I became obsessed with music. We had MTV there, and I was stunned by the videos they aired back then; Guns &Roses, Mötley Crüe etc... That's when I decided I wanted to be in a band. I first started on bass on my own when I was 13, then started a band with my brother and learned a couple of basic chords on guitar. I'm self taught so I would listen to songs, or just little parts of songs over and over to get what chord they were playing, what vocal harmony was bringing the magic feeling on this chorus, why the bass line on that bridge wasn't playing the root note...
7 – Where does the name MARS RED SKY come from. Any particular meaning behind it.
Julien: It just sounded good and pictured pretty well the kind of atmosphere we were creating. It's also a part of the lyrics of a song I was listening to one day, scrutinizing the sleeve like I always do, and those three words stood out. I'll let you guess what band and song it comes from...
8 – I am a huge fan of the French Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal scene. Thanks to bands such as Drawers, Wheelfall, Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel, Crown and many more that I have forgotten. What is the Stoner Rock scene like in France at the moment. Do you get many opportunities to play gigs or do you have to travel abroad to perform regularly.
Mat : Yes we played with Los Disidentes... but i don't know the other ones, shame on me I’m gonna cheek them out. I have to confess that i never listen Stoner/Doom music at home. I need to hear really different things or i would turn crazy !
Julien: We played a bunch of shows with Glowsun, they're really awesome.
9 – What is the songwriting process in the band. Is it a group process or is it down to one individual.
Mat : For this record, it's more a collective process. We set up in the practice room and jam on some simple ideas and then we keep what sounds good to us and structure it. Some songs are born from a guitar riff, or bass line or drum pattern.
Julien: On the new album there's just a couple of songs I wrote and structured on my couch with an acoustic guitar, but even those we ended up working out all three of us. On the first album it was a little different since I brought some material to work on, and since I'm used to composing songs from start to end that's what I brought in at first. Very soon we started composing together, Jimmy started writing and now with Matt it's obviously a collective process. His drumming is very melodic, carefully crafted, he even came up with a basic riff and drum patterns we worked out into songs. Jimmy came up with a song as well that we structured all together but it's mainly his vision, wich is really exciting, to have different perspectives in that band. We can surprise ourselves all the time. For some of the new songs, the core came out of jamming during soundcheck while on tour. I would come up with a riff out of the blue, the others would join in, we'd talk about it and end up structuring it all in the practice room. That's an exciting way to make up a song!
10 – In 5 words or less what is the live MARS REDS SKY experience like.
Mat : HEAVY / LOW / MELODIC / HYPNOTIC
11 – We are massive Vinyl Heads here at Sludgelord. Are you Vinyl Fans yourselves. As you have released your records on Vinyl in the past.
Mat : Yes I love vinyls but i have more CD's than LP's in my collection. For one reason, l listen a lot of music in my van so as i don't have a turntable set up in my van i prefer CD's.
Julien: I like vinyls better too, mainly because to me, an album is not just a bunch of songs but a whole package, the artwork being totally part of the process. I love holding a new vinyl, scrutinizing the sleeve, liner notes, credits and lyrics, every detail of the artwork. It just feels more real on a vinyl. Regarding the sound it's hard to tell, it depends on the equipment you have, but I do feel vinyls sound better (I have a really nice turntable!)
12 - Have you toured with any famous bands or artists? If so who have been your favorite?
Mat : We played twice with Dinosaur JR. We'll play Hellfest where we'll play with great bands we love.
Julien: Roadburn in 2011 was a blast too, we played in the green room just before Sleep who were headlining on the main stage. That was a highlight.
13 - Are you guys full time musicians or do you all have regular jobs to pay the bills.
Mat : Yes Julien and me are musicians as a regular job and Jimmy is a booking agent. Julien has a folk solo project under his name Julien Pras and i play the drums with James Leg an American fender Rhodes player, and with Epiq a 3 pieces with bass, balanfon and drums, kind of “world psychedelic” thing.
14 – What are you guys currently upto at the moment. I have heard a new album maybe getting released in the not so distant future. Can you give us anymore details on this or is this still top secret.
Mat : Yes we're right now finishing the last but not least detail, the mastering. We recorded this album “by accident” in Rio de Janeiro a few days after our tour. We were supposed to go to the USA after this tour but we had problem with the US immigration, so we were stuck in Brazil. And thanks to the wonderful people we met there we've been able to go at Superfuzz Studio and meet this incredible man, Gabriel Zander who opened the door of his studio, and did the takes. He finally mixed the album and did an awesome job. He exactly understood how we sound and made this new album sounding really great to us.
15 - What are your favorite bands around at the moment? Do you listen to modern day rock/metal or do you just listen to the classic era of Stoner/Doom Metal/Hard Rock.
Mat : As i said i don't listen a lot of Stoner stuff. I can't wait for the new Behemoth record and the new Bruce Sprinsgteen as well ! I guess 2 great records in 2 different styles. Of course i love the classic Rock area like Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy. In the bands of today, i like Radio Moscow, Glowsun, Behemoth, i think that's all.
Julien: Mulatu Aftaké, Robert Whyatt... High on Fire, Electric Wizzard, The Beatles... anything that turns me on!
16 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band. What helpful advice would you give them.
Mat : Find a good name, try to avoid “Black”, “Hill”, “Mountain”, “Desert” in your band name, and tour as much as you can and try to not turn crazy and to keep it true.
Julien: Purchase a Big Muff before even getting a tuner. And have fun, that's the most important thing.
17 – Finally, Thanks for talking to us here at Sludgelord HQ. Do you have anything to say to your fans.
Mat : Thanks for those questions, sorry sometimes it'd be easier to develop some questions around a table with an old school cassette recorder. Hope to see you guys on the road !
Julien: Thank you very much!
Well guys thanks for doing this. All the best. Can't wait to hear new material from MARS RED SKY. Rock on!!!
Thanks to Claire at Purple Sage PR and for Mars Red Sky talking to us here at Sludgelord HQ.
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Written by Steve Howe