Monday 14 January 2013

20 Questons w/ Earthship

Earthship 2013 (C) David Robinson

I have the pleasure of presenting another interview for your attention, with none other than awesome sludgers Earthship.  They released their spectacular record last year to much acclaim and we at the Sludgelord, absolutely loved it. 

Earthship are a part of the amazing roster of bands on the brilliant Pelagic Records Label, home of Abraham, The Ocean and Kruger, to name but a few.  It goes without saying that I was psyched when Earthship agreed to be a part of this interview.  So lets get on with it.  Here is my 20 Questions interview with Dennis Böttcher, drummer of Earthship.  Enjoy!

Hello Dennis, How are you?  Thanks for talking to us and congratulations on the release of your superb new record, Iron Chest.  We recently reviewed it and we were gushing in our appraisal of it, it is outstanding!

Q) Where are you guys at the moment and what are you doing in terms of the band recently?  I recently saw an announcement for a show in May 2o13, a kinda Pelagic Records showcase, with Cult of Luna, The Ocean, Kruger.  You must be psyched for that show? Shame it is not in England, haha

A) Hey there and cheers, thanks for having us! Right now we´re starting rehearsals again after the holidays and in February we´ll be back on the stage again for some shows. Meanwhile we´re working on some new material for the next record and try to get some songs together.

Yeah...the pelagic fest is going to be a blast! Lots of great bands and label mates in a pretty cool venue too. We´re stoked about it!

As far as I know it´s just a close one hour flight from London to Berlin so come on over lads!!

I read your bio on the Pelagic website , which indicate Earthship were formed by Jan (ex- The Ocean)  in 2010.  You’re described as  EARTHSHIP surge ahead like a nuclear-powered icebreaker through the Barents Sea, laden with mighty riffs, tons of groove and home-brewn whiskey’

Q) For the benefit of our readers who may be new to your band, could you tell us a little about the history of the band,  Where you’re from? Current band members?

A) Well me and Jan know each other from our original hometown Hannover for years and watched each other from afar with our different bands we´ ve played in but never managed to hook up for our own band. When I moved to Berlin Jan played me the songs he wrote while Robin was always drilling him to record them. On one big night out, including a lot of the mentioned  whiskey, we decided to give it a go.

 So we started of as a four piece including Robin on guitar and a good friend of ours, Bastian Gutschke, on bass who is appearing on Exit Eden. Short before the Friction Tour with Red Fang, Intronaut and of course The Ocean, Bastian decided that he don´t  want to tour, so Jan's wife Sabine filled the gap short handed.

Right now we´re working as a three piece because Robins commitments to The Ocean took him to much effort. So it´s me, Sabine and Jan representing Earthship right now and we´re pretty pleased with that.

Q) You played your first show with, Torche that must have been some baptism?  How was that experience

A) Pretty amazing! The place was packed and it´s been exiting to perform the songs under these circumstances for the first time...we´ve all had a shitload of “lampenfieber” as we call it in German (´cause I don´t now the English word for it).

We just opened for Torche again the passed Autumn, so it could´nt have been that bad...
Live 2012

Q)  Is Earthship a full time commitment, because I know Robin also plays in The Ocean?

A) As far as the commitment for a band goes Earthship are definitely full time. Besides at least two of us have full time jobs as well, so there is not much time for other musical activities except for some jams.

As said before, Robin is not able to do Earthship any more due to his  commitments to his main band and the schedules of the both projects.

Q) With all the changes in the music industry, it genuinely does appear harder to make a commitment to a band, what with the potential for constant touring, promotion and bands perhaps supporting themselves financially, what motivates Earthship?

A) Well it nearly became impossible to make a living out of music and following that, it´s pretty hard to get some touring dates together because of the day jobs. As much cliché as it may sound, but we´re all into it because of the fun of it and the feeling you have being up on the stage because this is the best we can do. Whatever will come with that, bring it on!!

Q) Given that the band is formed by ex or current members of The Ocean.  What was your motivation to start the band and was it difficult to forge your own identity?

A) As said me and Jan always wanted to play together in a downtuned heavy doomy band and just see where it take´s us. So we started of jamming right away without any thoughts of peoples perception or anything. There´s been an own identity from the start I guess...although it´s not the worst thing to be compared to a band like The Ocean!

At least I think we´re sounding pretty much different.

Q) Since your inception, what was your modus operandi been in terms of the band? 

A) Drink, practice, practice, gig, drink, practice, gig, gig, drink, practice, gig, practice, drink, record, gig, drink gig, hangover, gig, drink, gig, home

...that´s pretty much it haha

Q) How easy is it for bands such as yourselves to gigs?  From talking to other bands, some venues/promoters just won’t book them, Is it a struggle? 

A) It sure is...if only some venues or promoters would answer with a NO that would be OK . But sometimes you receive no answer at all. We are in the comfortable position now to have the booking team of Modern Obsession ( behind us to help us out.

Q) It might sound like stupid questions, but is playing live important to Earthship, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc?  Often touring is the main source of promoting your band.   

A) As much as I like the recording process it is the coolest and most fun part to play live! But you´re right to get a tour together with all other day to day commitments is not easy but it is still the best way to promote your band especially on the level we are working on.

Q) Your music is said to appeal to fans of, CROWBAR,  BARONESS, MASTODON, IRON MONKEY and ZOZOBRA. Is that a fair assessment?

A) I think that´s quite appropriate. And Crowbar is definitely one of the alltime favourite bands for all of us. For sure I think we´re sounding pretty unique...but these are not the baddest bands to be compared with...

Q) You are part of a great roster of bands on the excellent Pelagic Label, it must be pleasing to be associated with bands such Kruger, Abraham, The Ocean etc?  Is the same significance attached to being signed to label as their once was, with bands releasing music on bandcamp etc? 

A) First of all it is a great pleasure to be on a label like Pelagic because of the artistic freedom one has. That includes the artwork as well  witch Robin is really going for and wants to present his bands  on a high quality level. Plus, all labelmates we met and played with are really cool guys and we´re having a ball every time we meet. So you can say there´s some kind of camaraderie thing going on.

But I think the times where a band can lean back and let the label do every thing for them from A-Z are long time gone and hey, let´s face it: neither one of us will become the next Led Zeppelin. So there´s a lot of DIY left, even when you are on a label. But we could´ nt ask for a better one, that´for sure.

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

A) Yeah we are! I mean, we all grew up with heavy music and wanted to play this kind of stuff. But we´ re not listening to Metal exclusively. Especially on long rides to a gig you can´t listen to noise all the time. So there´s a lot of Country, Blues and Funk around as well.

Me, I just entered a pretty heavy Meshuggah phase some time ago (again...) and bust Jan´s balls with it, ´ cause he can´t stand them haha

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

A) Well as said above Crowbar is one of my (and I can talk for the other guy and girl) biggest influences in terms of heaviness and riffpower. Plus drummer Craig Nunenmacher who´s featured in the first three Crowbar records is THE guy who inspired me the most for my own play. I mean, there are a lot of unbelievable musicians out there where you can get influences and ideas from.

Then again, we did´ nt think of any particular band we wanted to sound like when we started of.

Lyric wise, at least I get a line or some words popping up in my head and start from there. There´s no master plan what  subject I want to write about. I guess Jan´s lyrics are a bit more down to the point while I like to work with metaphors and keep them more open. Kind of. Sort of....

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?

A) Mate I´ m the drummer. Got the wrong guy, sorry. Jan and Sabine plug their guitars into these cubes with knobs and lights up on stage, that´s all I know haha.

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

A) There sure is a vivid scene for heavy music in Berlin. Especially Jan hears and sees a lot of bands due to the Studio he owns. And there are some friendly bonds with some of the bands we´ve played over the years. So keep an eye on a cool new band called These Hands Conspiracy. Don´t no if they recorded material yet but they are really heavy and spacey with a cool singer!

I guess Earthship is a bit between the chairs when it comes to belonging to a “scene”. We´re   not definite Doom, nor 70´s, nor Stoner. But that´s a cool thing I believe.

Q) How you feel your band has generally been received and does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?

A) We are received pretty good I guess. Of course one wishes to sell more records and to play soled out venues and what not, but in a Live environment the reactions are really cool. As long as I see some heads grooving in the crowd I´m satisfied.

Selling merch and albums is not surprising but flattering to me. Same with getting good reviews (thanks again, lad:-)). It just shows that you don´t suck that hard you thought you were and people appreciate your effort. And talking to people and having a drink with them is always fun.

Q) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, what with illegal download and perhaps more pressure on mags to feature ‘scene’ bands or bigger artists.  How valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Does all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

A) That would be a dream if anyone who downloads our record would buy a shirt or show up at a concert! Haha..

But anyway, platforms like music blogs, e- zines or even facebook help a lot to get your shit out to the people. And most of these platforms are run by people who do this stuff from their heart. So keep up the good work. The bands do need that support nowadays!

Q) Reviewing records within the genres of sludge/doom/stoner/punk etc, you often listen to a lot of stuff which is quite similar. What sets you apart from your peers and what are your thoughts about being part of any scene?

A) As said I think our sound is a blend of all kinds of music in that particular genre witch might make it a little difficult to label it or mark any scene. But I feel it´s a good thing though not to be your every day shred band.

Q) Getting back to your record ‘Iron Chest’, it comes a year after you released your debut, ‘Exit Eden’.  Did you learn anything about the band from the recording and touring of your first record, that you wanted to change or incorporate in ‘Iron cHest’?

A) We are all more experienced now and learned a lot on tour and in the studio so you could say that this might have had an effect on the new material. But in the writing process there was no kind of plan where to go. We wanted to have a little more clean vocals on the new record and  that comes with experience and self esteem from the tour as well I guess.

Q) Did you agenda when you began writing the new record? Was this record more of a group effort, as it is remarked that band was mostly Jan’s creative outlet?

A) For Exit Eden Jan had all songs already written, we just changed some little things here and there in the rehearsal room and quickly recorded it. Speaking of Iron Chest, this record is way more a band album. The riffs themselves are Jan´s work but we jammed them out at the rehearsals and forged the songs. Jan is without a doubt the captain of the ship but that does´nt mean the rest of us can´t add our own flavour to the sound.

Q) What were your aims for ‘Iron Chest’ and how do you feel it compared to ‘Exit Eden? What are your thoughts about it, now it is in the public domain?

A) Exit Eden was very noisy and dissonant witch was our aim for that record and we achieved that pretty well. On the new one we wanted the songs to be a little more accessible  and more to the point. Plus we wanted it to sound spontaneous, only 5 or 6 songs where written when we entered the studio. So we  set up the mics for the drum set and jammed and whatever felt right we recorded. I like the vibe this way of working is given to the songs. You could say that the album is the more homogenised one of our releases.

I still like to listen to Iron Chest. Not on a day to day basis but it´s a cool piece of work though.

Q). Reflecting upon 2012 as a band, do you feel that 2012 has been a good year for you and what are your plans for the rest of the year and 2013.  Are you planning to tour throughout 2013

A) The past year was quite a ride with ups and downs and really great moments and shows. We can´t complain.

We´re trying to get a tour together for the time around Easter but there´s nothing fixed yet.  Also we´re starting to write new songs for the next record. It´ll be a little different than the other albums so keep an eye on us!

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

A) Well obviously a big fucking thank you to every one who comes to our shows and buys the albums and shirts!! your support is deeply appreciated and we´re looking forward to have a drink with you guys on the road!! maybe even in the UK...we´ll see!

Big up!!!

A big thank you to Dennis for answering the questions, you're a gentleman and a scholar.  Thanks also to Jan Oberg of Earthship for setting up the interview and also Jona Nido, PR for Pelagic records for initially hooking us up with the record to review.  Without that, this would not have been possible

As ever show your support to the band by buying their merch and checking the various link below.  Cheers for reading as ever.  Many thanks. Aaron