Sunday 28 October 2012

20 Questions w/ Black Sheep Wall

Black Sheep Wall (C) Anthony Pham

Another few days go by and another interview for you guys!  Well, I was stoked that Black Sheep Wall agreed to talk to us, here at The Sludgelord.  I must say that their new record No Matter Where It Ends, has divided opinion, but I am on the side of the fence that loves the record.  60 minutes of down tuned skull crushing heaviness. 

I have been a fan of the band since the release of their 2006 debut, I Am God Songs, so when I heard there was a possibility of interviewing the band, I jumped at the chance to talk to these dudes.  It seems in 2012, Black Sheep Wall have come out fighting and all of the difficulties which hindered them, are now firmly in the past.  I spoke with Jackson Thompson from the band and here is what he had to say.  Enjoy!  Cheers Aaron.

I Am God Songs cover art
I Am God Songs 2006 debut Album


Q) Hey Jackson, how are you and where are you at the moment and what are you doing in terms of the band?  Have you have been touring/writing this summer? 


J) Currently we are writing music for our next full length as well as finishing up (which is proving to be a very long process) an ep to be released before that full length. We’re also playing shows in our area, recently we played Season of Mist showcase put on by Scion with Saint Vitus and The Casualties, and we also played with our friends in Volumes just a matter of days ago. This summer we toured the United States for a month. It doesn’t sound very long in the scheme of many hard working bands nowadays, but it was the longest we had been on the road before, as well as our first time on the east coast. We had a blast and are excited to get out there again.


Q) You’re responsible for another outstanding release this year, No Matter Where it Ends is phenomenal.  For those people who are not familiar with the music of Nether Regions, could you tell us a little about the history of the band and some of the bands you've played with? Where you’re from? When Black Sheep Wall first formed? Current band members?


J) I’ll make this as simple as need be. Black Sheep Wall formed in 2006 in Moorpark, Ca. We have had several fiascos despite our less than consistent or diligent work ethic. It’s amazing the band is still standing. For a little less of half of our career as a band, we’ve been completely inactive. We’ve had the pleasure to play with bands such as A Life Once Lost, Genghis Tron, Gaza, Converge, Weedeater, The Red Chord, The Acacia Strain, Despised Icon, and Bone Dance. Our current roster includes myself: Jackson Thompson, Brandon Gillichbauer, and Scott Turner who are all original members. Newest to the line up is Garrett Randall on second guitar. Trae Malone is our vocalist, and although he is not an original member, he’s been in the band for more time than any other vocalist. This is his second time being our singer.


Q) Is Black Sheep Wall a full time project?


J) No, this is our means of expression, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we take it lightly. The band is still very important to all of us. Life gets in the way too much for us to be able to do this all the time. When we do have time for it, we try to make the most of it. Our music means too much to me to ever consider it my job. I’ve been through periods where I’ve wanted too much out of the band and been pretty gung-ho about it. Reality eventually always sets in and reminds me that this is meaningful because it’s a reflection of everything else. While I’d love to have more time for the band I also can’t deny that if we took this too seriously, I can’t see it being all that worthwhile. I look forward to someday having the opportunity to tour more, but the day I’m sick of doing this is the day I quit.


Q) What made you start the band?  Did you all know each other before you formed the band?


J) Brandon, Scott, and I all used to play in a band called The Don Maestri Experience together. Don Maestri was our eighth grade gym teacher. We ended that band because we wanted to write music more like what Black Sheep Wall turned out to be. So yes, we go way back. Scott and I were actually in the same kindergarten class together. 


Q) It states on your bio that since your inception in 2006 you suffered set backs, such as losing members only for them to return and then leave again, not touring enough etc.  How frustrating was that given that these things affect the momentum of the band? What motivated you to carry on and release No Matter Where it Ends and have those problems made the band stronger?


J) It can be very frustrating. Being in a band can be a huge pain in the ass sometimes, especially when you’re teetering in the grey area of being a “real band” or “local band”.  At this point, a lack of momentum doesn’t bother me. I’m not doing this to try to “make it”. I do it because I love it, and I’m ok with sacrificing time, energy, and money if I have to, because the experience as a whole is that rewarding. Problems will always arise and of course they’re annoying, but we’ve made it this far by making do with what we have. Have our problems made the band stronger? If I looked to be inspirational, I’d answer yes, but the truth is no, not at all. Our issues with member changes, scheduling issues, etc. have left us weaker as we haven’t had the means to tour more often and in a more organized fashion. This can really affect the overall morale in which we write less music. At the end of the day I have no regrets though. I try to make the most of everything, and the band has been a great opportunity to do just that. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Live 2011

Q) It is seemingly harder and harder to be part of underground band these days, with bands barely breaking even financially following long tours etc. Bearing that in mind, what motivates you as musicians?


J) Interestingly enough, it’s been easier and easier for us as of recently (the last year or so). Any touring we did before this summer, each member was forced to throw in several hundred dollars just to be able to make it home. Our first recording was also paid for completely out of our own pockets, and still with no return.  We’ve never had the chance in the past to be very thoughtful with our finances for the sole reason that we’ve literally had no money. At this point, we are still losing money. Having Season of Mist pay for our recording was a giant help and we’re very appreciative for their presence. Furthermore, I was astounded when we came home from tour to realize that we had (barely) more than broken even on gas funds through our show payments and merch sales. We still ultimately lost money for having to rent a van. If it stays like this for the rest of the band’s career, I’ll be more than satisfied. What motivates us as musicians? I can only speak for myself, but the truth is, I just don’t know any other way. Sir, the guitar player of a band called Jument told me several years ago that they named their band Jument because it meant “beast of burden”. In other words, he felt music was a beast of burden, an addiction that couldn’t be helped. He needed it in his life just to survive; music was the problem and solution at the same time. He looked me in the eye and said “there is no other fucking way”. After some speculation I came to the realization that I felt the same. I haven’t been able to look at it any differently ever since.


Q) Are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment? Any recommendations?


J) Been listening to the new Converge recently. I can’t decide how I feel about it yet. I’m really excited for new Pig Destroyer!


Q) When you started/restarted Black Sheep Wall, what were your hopes for the band?


J) No hopes at all.


Q) If someone was unfamiliar with your band, how would you describe your sound and due you feel it has evolved, since I am God Songs?


J) I would describe our sound as low, monotonous, and slow. Of course I’ve put much more thought into the music than those obvious labels, but the truth is that our music isn’t for everyone. It’s barely for anyone to be fair. I guess I really just don’t know how else to describe it for someone who’s unfamiliar. The sound has evolved quite a bit in my opinion. I would consider this evolution very natural though. We didn’t force anything. We’ve been through a lot since high school, and our sound definitely reflects that.


Q)  Who would you say are your influences/heroes both musically and artistically in terms of the bands sound? 


J) Every person in the band would answer this question differently so keep that in mind. For me, Thursday will always be my heroes. I just respect them so much for the way they’ve handled their entire career, not to mention I don’t think they’ve ever put out a bad album. If I listen to old Thrice, I get a nostalgic feeling, and its fun and all that, but if I listen to old Thursday (particularly Full Collapse, War all the time era) I get that feeling followed by “holy shit this is still incredible”. I guess I just don’t hear trends, but real art that can apply to everything. Do I listen to Thursday much anymore? Hardly at all, but I will always look up to them with the highest respect.

No Matter Where It Ends 2012

Q)  Is it true, Black Sheep Wall is term used as a cheat code for the games ‘Star Craft’? Why did you choose that name?


J) Yes, it’s true. It just fit honestly, no reason other than that. It was actually Daniel Kraus’s (guitar player for Admiral Angry) idea for an Admiral song. Brandon played in both bands at the time and asked Daniel’s permission to steal the idea for our band name. Daniel was cool with it and it came to be.


Q) I’m assuming all musician like to talk about gear, so with that in mind what gear do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?


J) I definitely know the least about gear in all the band. If drums sound good I’m all for them, don’t care much for getting to know every brand and all their series, etc. Currently I play on a Shine kit, which is a defunct company from Sacramento. Brandon plays out of a Sunn 300t head, Scott plays out of an Orange Thunderverb 200 head, and Garrett plays out of a Sunn Model T head. In general, we play really really loud. We tune to drop g.


Q)  What is the scene like in your hometown?  What are your thoughts?  Where do you think Black Sheep Wall fit within that?  Any bands we should be keeping an eye out for?


J) The scene in our hometown is nonexistent from what I know. When we were growing up there was a big scene for metal core. To this day I’m convinced Moorpark bred the absolute best slam dancers of all time. I would go to shows in L.A. and whatnot, and see the slam dancing and it was an absolute joke to the type of stuff people were doing in Moorpark. We’re talking about back flips off stage into windmills, you wouldn’t believe it. It’s all a joke at the end of the day but these guys we went to school with were absolutely ridiculous, you could tell there was lots of practicing in the mirror going on to old Bleeding Through and Poison The Well. Admiral Angry was always the contradiction to everything and that was really fun to watch. They pissed off a lot of straight edge kids and tough guys. I am God Songs wasn’t released when we were still in high school although it was written and recorded then. We’ve never really been part of a scene out here. To be honest, some of our worst shows have been the ones closest to home. The entire Los Angeles area is oversaturated with music and entertainment in general so it’s really hard to get people to care.


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


J) I owe a great thanks to anyone who takes an interest in the band, I haven’t much of a care as to where it’s coming from. We don’t have anything close to mainstream success as far as I know.


Q) How you feel the record has generally been received? I personally think the record is brutally heavy and just incredible.  Interestingly though I feel that some reviewers don’t really get what you’re trying to do, picking up on what they perceive as ‘a lack of variety or that it’s one dimensional’.  Does that bother you?


J) Well I know that a lot of people really don’t like NMWIE. In all honesty though, every bad review I’ve read has tried to pin our shortcomings on things that were absolutely intentional. The lack of variety is absolutely true, but it’s just what we wanted. The record is a harsh and overbearing listen, but that’s what was intended from the get go. I can honestly say that I’m happier with that record than anything else I’ve ever musically been a part of. I don’t think its perfect by any means but I’m very proud of it. Needless to say, I’m not bothered by negative opinions in the least.


Q) So you’ve been active on/off since 2006 and you have released 2 records to date, what have been some of your highlights so far? What are your aspirations for the future? Are you here to stay?


J) Playing awesome shows is always fun, I also really enjoy recording, even though it can be very tedious. I’m happy where the band is at right now, I just want to continue making and releasing worthwhile music. We’re definitely not here for good, hardly any band is, but we’ll be here as long as we can be, and I look forward to every step of the way.


Q) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with?


J) There are lots of interesting things that happen on the road. I don’t know where to begin or how to express myself without offending outside parties. I’ll just say that touring can be harsh, inspiring, and humbling, and that I owe Walmart thanks for their welcoming parking lots.


Q) Let’s talk about NMWIE, given the 6 year gap between records; did you have any fears when it came to writing the new record or that people wouldn’t be bothered given the gap? 


J) I wouldn’t use the word feared, but more so expected, and some of that has reigned true. Of course it would be great if we were a band everyone paid attention to, but I’m more than grateful for the people that do.


Q) What was your approach to new writing material for the band?  Does everyone contribute ideas? 


J) It all usually starts with something Scott comes up with in his head. I then hear it and rhythmically change things. Sometimes the other guys will throw in ideas or riffs as well. We’ve also thrown away full album’s worth of material. It’s always frustrating, but also ensures that we’re always striving to be better.


Q) In terms of the band do you feel that 2012 has been a good year for the band and what are your plans for the rest of the year and 2013, any chance you'd consider coming to the UK? 


J) 2012 has been fantastic for the band. It’s great to be back! We’re constantly writing new material and I definitely expect some of that to be released in 2013. We’re always considering going overseas. We really hope it happens some day. Only thing in our way at this point is finances. No solid plans as of now.

Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?


J) I try to say thank you with every chance I get, but that doesn’t even come close to expressing the gratitude that I owe so many people. It means so much to me to see a strangers interested in something I’m a part of, and for the support that comes from that, I can’t even begin to understand it. I will remember this whole experience for the rest of my life. Be good to each other!

A massive amount of thanks to Jackson from Black Sheep Wall for answering the questions and also to Gunnar at Season Of Mist for hooking us up with the interview.  Show your support to the band by checking out the links below.  Their new record is superb.  You can download it here