Monday 4 March 2013

20 Questions w/ Headless Kross

Galloping along at hefty pace, it's just the right mixture of sludge and doom. Think early High on Fire, that kind of Sabbathy inspired punk/metal hybrid.. And just like High on Fire these guys really do prove how much beautiful noise a well-honed power trio really can make.  Word by : Matt Fitton
This is what The Sludgelord had to say about the recent split 7", Headless Kross recently released with heavyweight bass sludgers, War Iron.  We have been following the progress of Headless Kross since the release of their debut, Bears a few years back.  Hot on the heels of the brilliant Demises record, they are making a quite a name for themselves on the live circuit, having shared the stage with Slomatics amongst others. 

Therefore it is with great pleasure that I bring to your attention, a recent interview I did with Headless Kross. There are a number of cool things on the horizon this year for Headless Kross, therefore check out what they had to say about when I fired 20 Questions at them. 

Bear cover art
Q) How are things in the Headless Kross camp? What are your immediate plans with potentially a full year of band promotion ahead of you?

A) Jonny - Right now, album. That's the priority. There will however be another split release before then. The superb Head Of Crom records is releasing a song we recorded a wee while ago. We're sharing the vinyl with Lazarus Blackstar. Well excited about that. Had a listen to the mastering job that James Plotkin did on all the tracks. Sounds immense.

Q) First of all, congratulations on your recent split 7" with War Iron, such an amazing release.   Can you tell us about the record and the process of putting it together?

A) Jonny - Thanks. The split came about after War Iron visited from Belfast to play a couple of Scottish dates. By the way, those shows were awesome. At one point during the first show I actually jumped up and went "Woo hoo" when they started playing Inchcape. Manly. Anyway, Baggy suggested the notion of a split. We'd just put out Demises and were starting on the next album but couldn't resist doing a split with War Iron.

Derek - As usual, we got through the recording pretty quickly. There were a few technical problems that meant we had to do a few extra takes, but generally it was pretty smooth going - Tommy and James know what they're doing. As far as the mixing goes, it's a mystery to me... The War Iron guys organised the pressing and the artwork, and the whole thing seemed to come together pretty quickly.

Q). Could you tell us a little about the history of the band and some of the bands you've played with? When Headless Kross first formed? Current band members?

A) Derek - We all knew each other from being at shows etc. I went to see Kylesa in 2011 and bumped into Tommy and Jonny. They had been practicing for a while, and asked if I would have a go on bass and vocals. The first practice went well, and that was it. Before this I hadn't played for a few years. As far as our kind of thing goes I used to play in a kind of doom-y band called Ultimo Dragon (with Tobin from Ommaddon), and the short lived Order of the Black Cross. I hadn't really thought about doing anything else, but I'm glad things have worked out the way they have.
Jonny - I hadn't played in bands since the early to mid nineties. That band was called Phlange. It was a kind of shoe-gazey punky metal band.

Tommy - Most recently I'd been drumming for Glasgow thrash punk titans, Atomgevitter but I've wrecked my shoulder with poor drumming technique so I had to start a band that was slow so I could play guitar in them!
Q). Which band or artist turned you guys onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal and wanting to form a band?

A) Derek - I never found myself specifically wanting to play metal. Gradually over the years things just got heavier and heavier. You know how it is. When I was younger in the early 90s I was into the grunge music and all that, so whatever bands from that era sound cool enough to cite as influences for starting playing, that's the ones I liked. Definitely. And none of the shite ones. None.

Jonny - I was pretty lucky, my dad & his mates got me into Sabbath, Deep Purple, Zeppelin et al when I was wee. That's when I started to build drum kits out of biscuit & paint tins. Think there was some part of a budgie cage incorporated into it too. Ended up joining the percussion section in the school orchestra just to get use of the drum kit & practice room after classes. Anyway, a few years later I was borrowing kits to jam with pals.

Tommy - The first LP I ever bought was Live After Death. Went through a myriad of musical tastes in my teens and I was always starting bands but heavy metal seems to have become a spiritual home. Always the nastier, scuzzier side though. I've got no time for metalcore either.

Q) What was your motivation to start the band?  Did you all know each other before you formed Headless Kross?

A) Jonny - I'd not played in a band since Phlange. I moved to Glasgow about 13 years ago & never got back into it. For years I just went to gigs rather than played them. That was cool for a while but then I got the urge again. Tommy & his brother James have a studio where I work so I booked a practice slot. I had no plans at first. I just wanted to play drums again. I dug out my old cymbals, compiled a playlist, smoked a bifta & went at it. I'm sure I must have been a racket, battering away to Mudhoney, Crowbar, Iron Monkey, Faith No More, Melvins & whatever else.

Tommy - My motivation was to have a band that was comfortable exploring any idea I or any other member might have and to not be limited by genre.

Q) Since your inception, was your plan always to write and release your own music?  

A) Jonny - It was all fairly fast paced for me. Started as a jam then we had 6 songs.

Tommy - That was always the plan if it worked out. I'm compelled to do it.
Demises cover art

Q) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it for your band to get coverage and get gigs?  

A) Derek - We've been pretty lucky in terms of gigs. People like James at the 13th note and Chris through in Edinburgh have put us on some excellent bills, and now the Slomatics are putting us to shame with their speedy organisational skills by sorting out some Irish dates. As far as coverage goes, I never really expect anything like that, so am always pleasantly surprised when someone says something nice.

Jonny - Getting gigs wasn't too difficult once we had stuff recorded. Tommy has a lot of friends in the biz so we got to play some good punk gigs. In terms of coverage we owe a lot to good folk like yourselves & other music fans that take the time to write about it online. Bandcamp is a great vehicle for getting your music out there in the first place. By the way, I'm halfway to sorting the Scottish part of that Slomatics deal.
Q) Based on your own experience, what do you think is the most important thing for a new metal band to do in order to promote themselves?

A) Derek - Be good. Hopefully the rest should sort itself out. And try mixing your metal music with some rapping. This always goes down well.

Jonny - As Derek said, be good. Also, be nice. Nobody likes a pompous tit. And keep gimmicks to a minimum. Unless it's adding rap to your metal.

Tommy - Rap Metal is about to hit in a big way.

Q) What are some of the difficulties/frustrations of being part of Headless Kross, because there are many other commitments such as family, work etc, that perhaps restrict the amount of time you can dedicate to the band?  

A) Derek - I am a lecturer, so am stuck with school holidays which is annoying because it restricts us in terms of touring/shows outside of Scotland. I can be really busy at certain times of the year too, and it can be tiring sometimes in a 'finish work-straight to show-home late-up for work' sort of way. Although I think it wouldn't be as fun if I didn't get to moan about that kind of thing. Everyone loves being a martyr etc...

Jonny - It can be a bit tricky organising gigs with the three of us in full-time employment. We do get to practice without much interruption from pesky jobs. Certainly handy for me as the studio is right where I work.

Q) Don't think about this too much, but If someone was unfamiliar with your band, what words immediately spring to mind when you think about your sound?  

A) Derek - 'Heavy Rock Music'

Jonny - Hard Shanty Woogie.

Tommy - A good friend who isn't a big doom fan described us as "The riff from Children of the Revolution slowed right down and played for half an hour". I think that sums it up nicely.

Q)  Tell us some of your influences/heroes both musically and artistically, both metal and non-metal?  

A) Derek - I like David Wm Simms of the Jesus Lizard's precise, aggressive style of bass playing. Musically, outside of the more obvious influences, I like the monotonous swamp-y sounds you get with some Gallon Drunk, or Bad Seeds. I like the idea of taking stuff from outwith the usual metal boundaries and seeing how it works in our context. With the lyrics/subject matter there are many influences - Writers like Machen, Blackwood or Lovecraft (how predictable!); V.W. Quine's philosophy of language, some close-up magic theory, Japanese professional wrestling, The Demon Seed, some assorted classical mythology and a very specific bit of 60's/70's UK science fiction television all contribute to our twisted collage of the world.

Jonny - I'm not sure if I'd say they are influences because I'm light-years away from being half as good as them but the first drummers I knew the names of were Bill Ward and Mitch Mitchell. Listened to a lot of Sabbath and Hendrix as a kid. Other drummers that amaze me are Coady Willis, Brendan Canty, J.P. Gaster, Ian Paice, Mike Bordin, John Convertino, Bonham, Dave Turncrantz, Craig Gill, Jason Roeder, Paul O'Neill & Marty Harvey.

Q)  It might sound like a stupid question but, how important is the band's chemistry when writing and performing?

A)  Derek - It may sound like a cliché, but I think we all bring something unique to the band. It wouldn't sound the same with different people.

Jonny - Well, you have to get on with each other first. We're lucky that we were pals before the band. Although we have varied tastes, there is plenty of common ground for us to fuck about with. So to speak.

Tommy - We're definitely all on a similar wavelength musically and we're all pretty easy going personalities so that helps a lot.

Q) You also released ‘Demises' last year following on from your debut Bear, can you tell us a little bit about that?  

A) Jonny - Why does my computer highlight debut as a typo? Sorry, as far as I can remember Demises started as us working on the next album. We had just recorded a piece called The Silver Hand. We were hoping to put it out then do album 2. However, we were delighted when Adam from Head Of Crom said he would like to put it out as one side of a split 12". So while Adam scouted out another band we decided to take what we had been working on & put it out ourselves on cd. A friend, Emmett Mulligan, offered to do some artwork for us. We were blown away by the piece he did for us. So much so that we had it put on a t-shirt too.

Q) What were your aims for Demises and your Split 7" with War Iron, how do you feel about them now that it has been unleashed on the unsuspecting public?  

A) Derek - While I have been playing for years, these are the first actual real records I have played on. I feel like a real boy now!

Jonny - Ditto for me. I was over the moon when Demises arrived & was practically giddy when the test pressing for the 7" came. I'm glad that we did put out a couple of bits & pieces between albums. And it was nice to finally have a physical object that our music was stored on for people to have. As cool as bandcamp is as place for people to listen to or download your music it's always better to have music that you can hold in your hands.

Q) I'm assuming all musician 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?

A) Derek - We tune to C. I use an Ibanez bass, a Laney head and 4x10 cab, a Peavey 1x15 cab, a Bass Big-Muff and a Micro Polyphonic Octave Generator.
Jonny - I play Zildjian Z3 cymbals, a Premier Artist Maple snare & whatever kit is going. I can't afford one.

Tommy - Main guitars are a Guild S60-D and an Ibanez "Bernie Hughes" Studio. Amps (depending on what's working) - Matamp GT120, Marshall JMP, Selmer Zodiac. Various pedals - check out Moose Custom Electronics.

Q) Bands such as Slomatics have shown you a lot support, how important is support like that from your peers and how do you feel your band has generally been received?

A) Jonny - Yeah, we really appreciate positive feedback. Even better when you get it from a band like Slomatics. Those guys are finally getting some of the recognition they deserve. We were lucky enough to play with them a few times last year and are looking forward to doing it again this year. I think the band is being fairly well received. Either that or there's a lot of people blowing smoke up my ass. There's been folk come up to us after a gig saying it's the first they've seen us and they really enjoyed it. If that happens once in a while I'm happy.

 Derek - Some people have been very kind and very generous towards us, helping with shows, gear etc. While we are doing this because we enjoy it, it's good to see people who know their stuff taking an interest. This would be a good opportunity to thank some of the bands who have helped us, including Slomatics, War Iron, Conan, Vakunoht, Congo, and many others.

Q) For a band such as yourselves or anyone for that matter trying to get coverage or exposure, how valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord?  Does this type of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

A) Derek  - Blogs like yours, Sleeping Shaman, BeardRock etc (apologies to those I have missed) are very valuable to us. There have been loads of hits on the bandcamp from links on these sites. Even if there were none, the fact that someone is taking the time and effort to write about us is very cool. Thankyou.

Jonny - I'd say blogs are invaluable to bands like ours. Definitely reckon they have an impact on the spread of our audience. You can see on your Bandcamp how people arrive there. Quite often you notice The Sludgelord, The Bone Reader, BeardRock, etc.  I use them loads as a music fan too. Great for discovering bands I might otherwise miss out on.

Q) Quick fire question, what's your preference?  Cassette, CD, Digital Download or Vinyl? And why?

A) Jonny - Vinyl.   Sound.

Derek - Obviously I need to say vinyl, or I'll get my band licence took off me.

Tommy - Vinyl for sound quality. I find it hard to listen to mp3s these days. Really noticing how shit they sound.

Q) Reviewing records within sub genres of metal such as sludge/doom/stoner 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) Derek - We have the adult raunch that some younger bands are lacking. Also the woogie factor. Most bands these days take a more boogie approach. Not us. As far as scenes go, I always think of it more as folk helping each other out. In some cases it's not so much about having a similar sound, but having a similar approach to doing bands. That sounds very vague. Tough.

Jonny - I'm still not sure what kind of band we are. I know we're metal. We purposely didn't choose a "style". Like many other bands I'm sure we just kinda play what we like. That may be an amalgamation of two or three genres. Mongrel metal? Anyway, I don't think we're in a scene. Not that I know of. Is Glasgow-based Mongrel metal a scene? If it is I suppose we're in that scene. If they'll have us that is.

Tommy - I agree with Derek. I think attitude and co-operation matters far more than genre when it comes to a local scene. There's generally only 2 or 3 good bands maximum playing a specific genre in any one town.

Q) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you've toured and bands you've toured with or bands you'd like to share the stage with?

A) Jonny - Our "tours" tend to consist of 2-night affairs. I, for one, can say the band has taken me places I'd never been to before. Notably Aberdeen & Elgin. Both lovely places and crowds. Particularly enjoy playing The Moorings in Aberdeen. Excellent beer selection. Playing Belfast with Slomatics, War Iron and Wild Rocket in December was THE best end to our "live" year. Three absolutely mind-blowing bands. Check out all three if you haven't already. Another gig worth mentioning was Wee Fest on the Isle of Cumbrae. Originally intended to take place in a friend's garden (with consent from most neighbours) the location was changed after a complaint from one of the farthest away neighbours. The local plod suggested we moved to the north (and uninhabited) end of the island. Before we knew it, a generator had been bought and the fest had become truly Open Air. Everyone got shipped to the new spot & a fantastic day was had by all. Bands we'd like to play with? I'd like to play with High On Fire next Monday but I think it's too late to expect the call.

Derek - As Jonny says, we have had some great out of town shows - The Cumbrae Wee Fest experience was our generation's Vietnam, Elgin was great, but the pub was scary, Aberdeen was very welcoming, and Belfast was awesome! No real crazy stories, just lots of nice people and some quality shows. We're really looking forward to moving a bit further afield this year.

Q). In terms of the band, what are your plans for the rest of the year?  Can we expect new music from Headless Kross or big tours ahead?

A) Derek - The 'Slomatics/Headless Kross Hands Across The Sea' split mini tour-ette in August seems to be coming together at an alarming rate (thanks Dave), and we have a packed schedule for the first half of 2013 (one show a month, mostly in Glasgow and Edinburgh). The next album is at the R and D stage, and we might even try to buy a second hand projector and a sheet. Exciting times.

Jonny - As touched on previously, we're writing the new album now and are working on a trip to Ireland to play with Slomatics a couple of other Irish bands that everyone should check out. Wild Rocket from Dublin & Rites from Galway. Excited. Slomatics are then coming over for a couple of Scottish dates. Even more excited. For us, that's like a world tour. We have some exciting gigs happening in Scotland too. Hopefully 2013 will see us venture south for a gig or two.

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

A) Derek - Thanks for coming to see us and listening to our stuff. Please come and say hello if you're at one of our gigs. If I'm in a particularly good mood I may even show you a magic trick. Also, thanks to the official 'HK Superfan', Rab.

Jonny - Thanks to everyone that has come to see us, bought anything we made or said anything nice about us. Not just online, if you said something nice about us to a friend using your mouth to form words then thanks to you. Hope you enjoy what we have in line for 2013

Another great interview. Thanks to Headless Kross. Support this amazing band. You can buy a DD here.  Check out the Sludgelord compilation where you can hear a great track from this superb band.