Tuesday 30 October 2012

20 Questions w/ Nether Regions

Nether Regions (c) James Rexwood

Well, we have a lot to thanks Doommantia for, it is an understatement to say that they have turned us all onto some great records over the years and this year hasn't been any different. Indeed, it was during one of my numerous visits to the blog, I stumbled upon Nether Regions. 
If I remember correctly the review hinted at comparisons to High on Fire, which we all know, is no bad thing.  The rest as they say is history, I contacted the band, we reviewed their killer debut record (which you can read it here) and what's more I was delighted that the band agreed to talk to me. 
The band and particularly Joe, the bassist / front man, is a genuinely cool and down to earth guy.  It always surprises me the effort bands put into answering my seemingly formulaic answers and Joe was no different.  So a massive thanks to Joe and Dave at EarSplit for agreeing to take part in the interview.  So without further ado, here is what Joe had to say when I presented him with 20 Questions.  Enjoy!    (Before you get started show your support to ED and Doommantia by purchasing the stellar compilation here)

Joe Wickstrom (c) Bill Hefferman 

Hey Joe, How are you?  I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us


J Hi Aaron, we really appreciate your interest in the band and are glad you asked.


Q) 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) At the moment we are hiding out in rainy and cold Portland, Oregon. We are spending most of our time writing material for the follow up to our debut album Into the Breach. We have been laying low as far as live performances go this year but that will change a lot once we release the next album.


Q). You’re another amazing discovery this year (thanks Doommantia); your latest record is great.  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 Nether Regions first formed? Current band members?


J) Why thank you, we are glad you like the record. As far as our history goes, Guitarist Todd Pidcock and I formed the band in mid-2009 right here in Portland. At that time I had taken a few years off to teach and travel after the dissolution of my former band Ditchliquor in 2006. I had the opportunity to fill in on bass for a minute with Black Elk and spent 6 months as the bass player of Subarachnoid Space which kept me active in the community. Over that period of time I wrote some songs and decided I wanted to form another band. We have had a few line-up changes since then. We had existed over the last two years with fill in drummers for live shows but we finally have a permanent drummer by the name of Wade Murf.


Q). Is Nether Regions a full time project?


J) As far as musical projects go it is indeed the primary project of everybody in the band. Of course we all have day gigs so we can eat as well as supplement all the band stuff.


Colin Stout (c) Bill Hefferman

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


J) Todd and I started the band because life without music is miserable. I met him through our original drummer Shawn Davis whom I played with in Ditchliquor as well. Shawn lived with Todd and we used to rehearse in their basement. When the time came to form Nether Regions, Shawn suggested we have Todd play guitar. Since I knew Todd as a bass player I was uncertain he had the chops to pull off guitar duties. I asked Shawn if he was good enough and he replies “no, but he will be”. I trusted him and sure enough, Todd got really good really fast. He is fucking creepy like that with anything he tries to do.

Our primary lead guitarist, Colin Stout and I met at a music school we both taught at. When our original guitarist (and former student of ours) Kyle Bates left for school, it was a very simple solution to invite Colin to join.

Our Drummer Wade is the most recent addition to the band. We have had the worst time finding a permanent drummer to join. It is like some real Spinal Tap shit around here. One day his ex-girlfriend came up and told me she had a friend who was the best drummer she had ever heard that had just moved back to Portland and was looking to jam. I was dubious due to the fact that I have heard that “best drummer” shit before but she was dead on. I can say he is the most versatile, intelligent, and brutal drummer I have ever played with.


Q) It is seemingly harder and harder to make ends meet as a band, bearing that in mind, what motivates you as musicians?


J) Well, I can’t speak for the other guys but I am primarily motivated by the cathartic nature of playing heavy music. I have played many different styles and always return to the heaviest stuff I can play. I feel that writing physically demanding and dark material and playing it as hard as I can is very therapeutic. I suspect that lots of guys playing metal feel this way. I have noticed that is fairly common to read about musicians that play independent pop are the ones that frequently end up on the police blotter. It is disturbing how many guys get busted for being women beaters, violent drunks, and general assholes in that whole “Indy Rock’ Community as opposed to heavy rock guys that leave that shit on the stage and quietly move through their lives being nice. Music for me is an appropriate channel to exorcise the inevitable demons that inherently come with being a human walking around on this planet.


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


J) I am indeed a big fan of rock and metal. The truth is that I haven’t been listening to a whole lot right now as I fear it will subconsciously infiltrate my imagination while I am writing this record. I can definitely offer a recommendation though the new record by Godspeed You!  Black Emperor Entitled Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! Is nothing short of amazing. Also there is a new LP on Seventh Rule Records by a Portland band called Atriarch which is really interesting. In fact, there are a lot of good bands releasing stuff out of Portland that I like a lot. The truth is, I have never considered myself an arbiter of what is good or “cool” music. I find guys that do that a bit egocentric. I do know what I like though.

Joe & Todd (c) Bill Hefferman

Q) When you started Nether Regions, what were your hopes for the band?


J) At first I merely wanted to record some songs and do some local show. As we go forward the hopes and goals evolve. We released the debut record and did some limited touring. Now our plan is to shop for a deal with some international distribution, release an album, and tour more extensively.


Q) If someone was unfamiliar with your band, how would you describe your sound and do you feel it has evolved? 


J) Shit, this is one of those difficult questions to answer. To the uninitiated we would certainly be considered a metal band. What we try to do is incorporate everything thing we like that we have ever heard as well as throwing a few Non-Metal ideas into the cauldron. We really try to focus on writing good songs. As a complete Beatles freak, I love a good song with hooks. I believe that though hooks in heavy music may be very different than other kinds of rock, they do exist and are important. There are a lot of bands that get by on tone or aggression and we go for that as well but if those things are wrapped in an intelligently considered piece of music it is all the better.

Regarding the evolution of our sound, I do believe we have evolved. Many of the riffs and movements on the first record go all the way back to my teenage years. One song in particular, Alpha/Omega consists almost entirely of stuff I have had laying around forever but never used. I whipped out a lot of that kind of thing as well as wrote some new stuff.

With the new record, it is much more collaborative. Colin is bringing lots of stuff to the table and Wade is not simply our drummer, he is a guitarist and very versed in music theory. Hell, he tunes his toms at minor thirds. Todd is the creator of atmosphere and is getting more creative as he spends more time playing with six strings as opposed to four.


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


J) I like this question. The influences are literally anything I have ever heard that I liked. That would mean everything from The Beatles to Shostakovich to Sonic Youth to Ulver to Slayer. Just as important are the artists whose approach and attitude I admire. I love Neil Young because he really does not give a damn what anyone thinks. I also admire Leonard Cohen for his attention to song craft not to mention that he put on the best show I have ever seen at 76 years of age.

But to answer the question in a manner appropriate to the music we make, there is this; I really love European thrash along the lines of Coroner, Celtic Frost, and Kreator. I also am a fiend for dissonant independent rock such as Sonic Youth, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Explosions in the Sky. I grew up on Maiden and Priest and to round it all out with early exposure to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Blue Oyster Cult in my brother’s room with black lights. Put all that in a blender and you are getting close.   
Q)  Sorry I have to ask, why did you choose the name, Nether Regions?   I’m assuming you’re referring to the abode of Satan and the forces or evil, as opposed to a euphemism in reference to genitals?  Does that reference bother you?   


J) Well, I love double meanings. The truth is that our original drummer Shawn blurted it out and we all said “that’s it”. I immediately made a joke about how it means Hell but it also refers to the private area of a human and if someone does not keep up on their personal hygiene then it could mean both. I have read some reviews where writers make a juvenile joke about it but I truly don’t give a shit. I have been told on a number of occasions that it is the best band name ever.


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) We do indeed like our gear but are not nearly as obsessed with it as some of our friends. I will begin with my rig. I have several basses but my primary is a 1971 Univox Precisely. It is one of the lawsuit basses and it is a gem. For my amp I have a 1980 Ampeg SVT through a 1985 ampeg 8x10 cab. I run my signal through a Roland Space Echo pedal that I rarely use.

Todd is running either his Les Paul or SG through a Sunn Model T and a 4x12. He has a vast pedal board. Colin is running his SG or Stratocaster through a 100w Baron head and a boutique 4x12.

Lastly, Wade has a huge kit and plays the shit out of every piece. It is a Yamaha of some variety and has two 22 inch bass drums and 1 tom for every inch between 14 and 18 inches. He could write a whole article on his kit alone.

As far as our tuning goes we use a C# standard tuning and on some of the songs we will drop the low string to B. On the new record we have some songs in a weird tuning which we are keeping to ourselves for the time being.


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


J) Portland is one of the best heavy music scenes in the world right now. We have about ten world class heavy bands that sound nothing alike. There really is no “Portland Sound” which is a testament to the creativity as well the geographical isolation of our city. It certainly isn’t the only city with diverse heavy music community but it is the exception to the rule.

As far as where we fit in, I am unsure how to address that question. We have the good fortune to be on great bills with both local and national acts and for that we are sincerely grateful.

There are a number of bands garnering national and international attention which I am sure you have heard such as YOB and Red Fang but that is merely an inkling of the depth of the scene we have here. As I mentioned earlier, Atriarch is a good band that has an interesting approach. Some other bands of note would be Rabbits, Witch Mountain, Wizard Rifle, Norska, and Lord Dying. All are good bands that sound nothing alike.

Wade Murf (c) Bill Hefferman

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) Personally, I think it’s very cool to have reviews all over the world. I am even happier that the vast majority of them have exceeded my expectations in their positivity. Occasionally I will see one that seems maybe a bit lazy in that they clearly listen to one song and then make comparisons to some other band. Overall, we are very pleased to have our name out there. We have yet to do a whole lot of touring and the reviews and interviews are what we have to get our name around.

We haven’t really been covered much by the mainstream media here or in Europe. Perhaps that will come with the next release. We shall see.


Q) One of the things I like most about your band is that you release your own stuff and your DIY ethic?  How do you support the band financially and can you tell us about the label you set up? 


J) The truth is that we employ a DIY approach because it is all we have to work with at this time. I must say that it is extremely rewarding to conceive the idea, write the songs, fund the recording, pick the artists, pay for the pressing, and hire the PR firm once the record is released.

We have been lucky enough for the band to mostly pay for itself. We just take all the money we make from shows and merchandise and put it aside for whatever we need to do.

As far as Abnormal Gait Record goes, we do not in fact own it. It is owned by a couple of guys that are good trusted friends in North Carolina. I met them while I was tour managing another band. I slipped them a copy of our CD and oddly enough they were looking for a record to put out as their first release so it worked out perfectly.  We released the CD version and they did the vinyl. We have been through a few pressings of the CD and will do more as needed.



Q) Correct me if I am wrong but you have been active since 2009 and you have released 1 record to date, what have been some of your highlights so far? What are your aspirations for the future? I have heard you’re writing or have completed new material? 


J) That is correct; our first show was in summer 2009. We recorded Into the Breach in August of 2010. We have had a lot of fun and played some fairly massive shows mainly here in Portland as well as a couple in Seattle. As I mentioned previously, we have been lucky enough to play with some cool bands. Among the short list would be Pentagram, Black Cobra, Fu Manchu, Kylesa, and Weedeater. We also do a free show in Portland every winter and put together a massive bill. These shows draw 500 people at minimum and are a good time for all of the bands as well as the heavy music fans in Portland.


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


J) Well, the majority of my touring history predates Nether Regions and I do have some really crazy stories from those days but thus far we have only toured a little. We did do a West Coast US tour with our friends Lord Dying in the summer of 2011 that was a really good time. We were really surprised by the turnout and enthusiasm of the people in Sacramento California. We also did a few dates as main support to Black Elk in spring 2012 and those shows were pretty much sold out and crazy as fuck. We intend to head out in 2013 so the hope is that I will have a much more entertaining answer to this question one year from now.


Q) Lets talk about Into the Breach, what are your thoughts about the album looking back and were you pleased with the response?  How did you come to work with EarSplit PR? 


J) Into the Breach was a fun record to make. I just listened to it for the first time in a while yesterday and I still like the songs. What is interesting is that some of that material is really old, lots of riffs I had been sitting on that I finally got to use. I am certainly not 100% happy with it but considering we tracked it in 2 ½ days and mixed it in 12 hours, I think it turned out well all things considered.

When the time came to release the vinyl, we carefully considered our options for which PR firm we wanted to go with. Several of my friends in bands around the country were very enthusiastic in their endorsement of Earsplit. We sent Dave a copy of the record and he was into it so we just went for it. I have to say that it was the best money this band has ever spent. He is a really funny and cool guy and works his ass off for his bands. We intend to continue working with him as long as he will have us. 


Q) What is your approach to writing material for the band?  Does everyone contribute ideas?  Is Into the Breach representative of what we can expect from new material


J) We are definitely evolving in terms of our creative process. I personally composed about 90% of Into the Breach. Of course each member took the songs and crafted their own parts as well as contributed to the arrangements. As of late we have become a much more collaborative unit. Colin is bringing lots of stuff which we devour, deconstruct, and rebuild again. The new record will sound like Nether Regions but a more evolved version. Our chemistry is becoming fairly effortless and I think it shows in the compositions as well as the live presentation. With this next record we want to be more diverse, heavier, faster, slower, and just plain fucking weirder. The first record was our statement of intent as it were. We want this to be the record that Into the Breach hinted at, if that makes any sense.

 Into the Breach by Nether Regions cover art

Q) What are your thoughts about free legal downloads (I am referring to bandcamp) and the difference between buying a physical copy? Is it pleasing when people buy your records? 


J) Well, I would always prefer that people buy a physical copy because of the care that went into the art and layout but I am not complaining about digital sales one bit. The fact is that the best thing a person could do for us and themselves is to pick up a copy of the vinyl. It sounds so much more full and the art and layout is exactly what we wanted it to be. We have sold a lot of digital copies in Europe, specifically Eastern Europe and Russia. Since we really have no distribution other than the copies we sell at shows and through the mail, digital sales have been a lifesaver in regard to getting the music to as many people as we can.

Q). What are your plans for the rest of the year and 2013, any chance you'd consider coming to the UK? 


J) We are going into the studio to record a few tracks in late November with Producer/Engineer Brandon Eggleston. We are considering using that recording to shop to some labels. We like the idea of having better distribution and have decided to see if anyone has any interest. We also feel that if we release the next one on a good label we will have better opportunities with tours.  If nobody bites then we will return to the studio in the spring to finish the album and release it ourselves by summer. Then we will likely hit the road over here in the US for a few weeks here and there. Of course we will be trying to get involved with some package tours to better expose ourselves to a wider audience.

To answer your question, fuck yes we would come to the UK at the merest provocation. We definitely have our sights set on Europe and are seeking the proper opportunity to come over. I have these occasional house guests at my place here in Portland called Orange Goblin and would love to take them upon their offer to visit them at their homes in London.


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


J) Absolutely, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to check us out. We have plans to tour a lot more in the coming years and hope you will come out if we come to your town, we will do everything within our power to make you glad you did.

Nether Regions (c) James Rexwood  
I have to say another massive thank you to Joe for being such a cool dude and for his cander in answering my questions.  For more info on the band check out the links below.  You can purchase Into The Breach here, whether it be DD, CD or Vinyl.  Thanks for reading.