Saturday, 17 August 2013

20 Questions w/ Phantom Glue

Solvent abuse is generally considered a no no right, and yet, today I will gonna be that asshole drug dealer pushing what I consider to be next audible high you need to ingest, today I present, Phantom Glue.  Not to be confused with the 80’s female heavy metal band, Phantom Blue,  (who evoked a different kind of addiction to teenage boys in the 80’s),  The lineage of Phantom Glue, dates back to 2005, when they were known as Angels of Meth, (what is with this band and links to potential addictive materials). Yet this is a definite selling point of this band, that their music is so goddamn addictive and infectious.

Their current label, Black Market Activities also comments: "Boston, Massachusetts crushers, equally versed in sludge, doom, and noise rock, Phantom Glue churn out their self-proclaimed 'avalanche of distortion' with nods to Neurosis, Trouble, and The Jesus Lizard throughout. Colossal drums and bass charge forth while twin guitars cast evil spells. Exclaim! Magazine has hailed the band's sweet, mountain-moving din as 'a heated bastion of caustic riffs and unearthly girth.' Decibel Magazine praised their 2010 debut as, simply, 'a head banger’s journey.'

Having released a barnburner of a record back in 2010, on the suitably kooky monikered Teenage Disco Bloodbath Records.   3 yrs later, Phantom Glue is ready to drop their brilliant new record ‘A War of Light Cones’ via Black Market Activities, on 16th Jul. I am a massive fan of this band and if they have definitely brought their A game, when it comes to their new record.  So I am stoked to get the low down on the new record and bring you this interview, with one of the  most badass and truly original bands out there, so enjoy! 

SL) Mike (Gowell, guitar), a fucking warm welcome to The Sludgelord.  We’re currently in the middle of a heat wave (Mid July ’13) in England, and we’re not coping too well.  We’re ready for the hose pipe bans.  How the devil are you?  By the way, Congratulations!  I cannot put into words, how excited I am about ‘The War of Light Cones’, fucking amazing.   

-Mike: We're good man, thanks. It's hot as fuck in Boston, has been the whole summer. It's either 95 degrees or 95 degrees and raining. Glad you dig the record. 

SL) How are things at the ‘Glue Factory at the moment? What are your immediate plans for the rest of 2013? You guys must have been sick of me hounding you about this new record, but it seems like a long time coming, give us the lowdown on  it’s gestation, it was recorded early to mid 2011, right and its released Monday, 16/7/2013? A long process?  

-Mike: We never have any big crazy plans. Obviously we're stoked the record is finally out. Yeah, it was recorded a long time ago. There's a bunch of reasons it took so long to come out. We sat on it for a while for no real reason honestly. Then when we hooked up w/ Black Market they already had a bunch of shit in their pipeline due to come out before us and then it was the typically hold ups that pretty much everyone who put out vinyl this year experienced. We never have crazy plans, we're not really a touring band, never really planned to be. Matt and I have families, and all of us except Nick have jobs that make it difficult to really tour. Nick's the exception, he's a sound engineer at a number of Boston venues so his schedule is more flexible and he's pretty active w/ his other band, The Proselyte, they tour much more than us, so he's got that to keep him from getting too frustrated with us not going out much. The real plan for this year to record new shit, everything on A War of Light Cones is old to us at this point.

SL) I did a little research on the band, there are links to bands such as Never Never, The Huguenots, but readers might be thinking Who the Hell are Phantom Glue,  could you tell us a little about PG? Current band members?  A brief history if you like?

-MIKE: Both of those bands you referenced Matt was in, Kurt (Ballou) was also in The Huguenots w/ Matt. PG started as Matt's project; musically, lyrically and aesthetically. It was originally called Angels of Meth, was less metal and a lot more noisy and 70s rock inspired. Completely different bass player and drummer. Their drummer eventually left and they got Terri Christopher (of 27) of played on the last album. Then their bass player left and they got Nick. I'd known Terri for a long time and another band I was in played w/ Angels of Meth and I really dug have noisy and heavy but catchy they were and pretty much just asked if I could come jam with them and we all played well and dug each other’s ideas. Eventually Terri left and we brought Kyle in having known him from seeing him play in other Boston bands. The new album sounds pretty different from the 1st album because Matt was the primary song writer on the first record. The new one had Matt and I sharing the riff writing and all of us arranging. Lyrically and aesthetically it's all Matt though and the band will always be his baby. 

SL) Which band or artist turned you guys onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal/Rock and wanting to form a band?  What was it like growing up in your hometown and being fans of metal for example? 

-MIKE: In general our experiences were pretty similar in that we were all fans of heavy metal growing up, started playing instruments and got into punk and hardcore and started playing in punk and hardcore bands in our early teens and I think as our playing ability improved we were just able to expand on that and ended up playing more of what got us into heavy music in the first place. For me personally, I trace my intro to heavy metal back to being obsessed with The Charlie Daniels Band's The Devil Went Down To Georgia when I was four. Then hearing shit like Maiden, Priest, Crue and Def Leppard on the radio seemed like the logical next step to that in that it was "scary" sounding and minor in key most of the time. Older kids in the neighborhood riding BMX bikes and skate boarding culture was then the gateway into punk, hardcore and thrash metal. In my area it was fairly normal for kids to be into metal as it was a big part of popular culture then.

SL) As you may have mentioned, you trace your roots back to bands such a Slayer, The Jesus Lizard and Karp, (That’s what I read, anyhow), were these influences the motivation to start  band

-MIKE: Those were definitely Matt's reference points in starting the band, Karp and Slayer specifically, but also a lot of 70s hard rock and proto metal like Deep Purple. There are some awesome recordings, super lo-fi but gnarly sounding that Kurt actually did as demos for them (Angels Of Meth's original line-up), from the early 2000s and then songs are just fucking great, super catchy, I'd love to convince Matt to release those, even just to put them up on bandcamp or something, at some point so people can really hear the progression of the band.

SL) So, you form PG, formerly Angels of Meth, incidentally, why the name change?  When did you go from that to writing and releasing your own music, did your sound come organically, because your sound isn’t genre specific? 

-MIKE: We changed the same because the band really sounded like a fairly different band once it was Nick, Terri and myself w/ Matt versus the original line-up. We hadn't released anything as Angels of Meth so we figured if we were going to do it that was the time to do, before the 1st record came out. The 1st record was written as Angels of Meth, we just changed the name before it was released. It was even meant as a real release, Kurt just had a weekend open so we went in to essentially just do it as a demo, we recorded everything live except for vocals and guitar solos. We pressed some cd's ourselves and did the package ourselves and sold them at shows. We started playing w/ Ramming Speed and Jonah, their drummer who also runs TDB Records said he'd be into releasing it. Totally unexpected for us and we were super pumped. Jonah was awesome to work with and was integral in putting us out there as something other than just a local Boston band. I don't know how but he managed to get the 1st record reviewed everywhere and in stores so we were stoked. I don't know how a bands sound wouldn't come organically unless it was totally preconceived to sound like other bands. We realize our records aren't redefining any genres but we don't write with anything in mind. It's weird because most of the bands we get compared to or people use as reference points we don't listen to.

SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it for PG to get coverage in the early days?  

-MIKE: We never tried to get coverage, it was really all Jonah on that 1st record. People seemed to like it and it got reviewed. At the same time, we've all played in bands for a long time and have friendships with other bands, most much more well known than we are, so we were fortunate to be able to record with Kurt and play shows with a lot of the more well known bands from around here.

SL) It might sound like stupid question, but is playing live important to PG, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc? You might have families, work etc and often touring is the main source of promoting your band?  Do you have to sacrifice a lot?

-MIKE: To me, playing shows is super important because it makes you a much better band; we've built our reputation in part because of our live shows. However, the touring thing is debatable. For labels it's typically important, though Black Market was aware we weren't a touring band and was cool with that which was obviously a relief for us. For bands to expand their fan base it's important. But we've never approached the band that way. When I joined I already had kids and I told them from the get-go I wouldn't tour extensively. Since then Matt had a child, Kyle's gotten a great job...we don't approach this band with the mindset that we have to achieve some level of recognition or whatever, we do it because it's a creative outlet we find satisfying. We've all been playing in bands since we were kids, Matt and I are pushing 40 and have been playing in bands for 25 yrs. This is the first band we've been in that's gotten any recognition outside of Boston. We just like writing music, we like practicing together. We also like playing live and do so locally pretty frequently, whatever we can do outside of that is gravy but we're not too concerned with it.

SL) There has been a considerable gap between writing and recording the new record, is it difficult to continue the momentum of the band during this period.  Do you feel perhaps that you’re having to build the momentum up again from scratch?

-MIKE: I think we definitely thought there was a possibility that people who dug the first record had forgotten we even existed, but at the same time, we're not that well known anyway. The momentum thing isn't so important because again, we're not trying to get on tours or anything. We obviously want the record to sell so the label doesn't take a loss and it'd be nice for us to break even on the money we put into playing for a practice space, merch etc. It's nice to be recognized by people and bands you respect but at this point we're all focused on getting a new recording done.

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

-MIKE: Skateboarding culture, punk, hardcore and 80s thrash metal, 90s death metal, 70s hard rock/proto metal...again that's pretty standard fair for guys that spent their adolescence in the 80s. As far as naming specific bands there's really too many and it would vary for all of us but when Matt started the band he imagined it as a mash-up of Karp and Slayer riffs. The early demos definitely reflect that. Matt's also an accomplished painter, he painted all our cover art, but he'd have to speak to his art influences. Paul Laffoley is an artist we're all big on though.

SL) What were your aims for The War of Light Cones, because you certainly don’t constrain yourselves within confines of one genre, the songs are very inventive and tangential at times?

-MIKE: There were zero aims, it sounds dumb but those are just the songs we wrote. I have a tendency to write more "metal" riffs and maybe more technical (in relation to what we do at least); Matt is simpler but a much catchier song writer and arranger. Everyone contributed to song arrangements and riff ideas.  We all feel the new songs we've written surpass what's on A War of Light Cones; heavier, weirder and also more melodic but still catchy.

SL) Did you have an agenda when you began writing the new record? For example a band might want more of the crunch, less of psychedelic type approach or just get together and jam?

-MIKE: No agenda, some of the songs on A War of Light Cones are almost 5 yrs old at this point. We write slow, we work on stuff and if we don't dig where it's going we'll just put it on the back burner and it'll sit there until eventually someone goes "remember that song and that part? What about this?" And then suddenly it all works. We're not terribly prolific but we're always working on shit.

SL) Is Kurt Ballou key ingredient to band, because the production of the record has brought a massive sound?  As a fan of heavy music, you think Kurt Ballou = Quality.

-MIKE: That's tough to say, I'd like to think we could make a good record regardless of who engineers it (within reason of course) but Kurt's production speaks for itself. The production on our first record is very un-Kurt like, at least in terms of how people think of his production lately, but worked very well for those songs. That's part of what makes him great though, he ear is phenomenal and he has a great sense of what works for bands and their albums. Our records sound totally different but the production on each serves the songs. At this point I think everyone associates Kurt with quality, can you think of an album he's done that doesn't sound good?

SL) Another thing that drew me to your band is the Killer Artwork, for your debut Matt described it as "sort of a dystopic, inverted, historical, psychedelic nightmare."  What waste inspiration for the new record?  That would look killer on a tee btw.

-MIKE: It's thematically similar to the first record in that it still has a log of historical references, specifically to colonial America. This one is more nebulous and it's quite as literal in interpreting the lyrics. Parts of the painting specifically relate to some of the lyrics though. The 3rd eye specifically relates to the portions of the album and lyrics that reference secret knowledge and extra sensory perception. The question is, who is this knowledge meant to serve? The lyrics and album theme an occult inspired fictional reinterpretation of what the original colonists were faced with when landing in America, what sort of weird shit did they find etc.

SL) Steering away from the record a little,  I’m assuming all musicians 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? 

-MIKE: Matt and I use Emperor Cabs, I play through Ampeg V4s and Matt uses a gnarly 80s Peavy Ultra 120 and occasionally a Marshall JCM 800 combo paired with it. Nick uses Ampeg SVTs and Sunn Coliseums. I think Kyle's kit is an old Ludwig? I can't remember, he stripped it and stained it, but most importantly knows how to actually tune them so they sound huge. Matt typically plays an SG and I play a Les Paul and Explorer. Tunings vary between dropped low E string and dropped low E and A string.

SL) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, 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

-MIKE: I think they're super important as far as getting the word out on bands which to us is the most important thing because we want people to hear it. Would we prefer they buy the record? Of course, but we'd rather someone steal it off a blog than not listen to it all. I don't know if it translates to people buying physical product, we don't sell very much stuff.

My Copy of War of Light Cones

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

-MIKE: Vinyl 100%. I actually still buy CDs too, but I like looking at the artwork, reading liner notes etc, and that's easier to do with vinyl. Plus vinyl really demands an interactive listening experience. You can't put it on and forget about it because you're going to have to flip that fucking thing over in 15-20 minutes.

SL) As music fans yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how 
important for you to present a great package for the release of your record? It’s worth 
mentioning the brilliant artwork.  

MIKE- The art work has always been front of mind for us. Due to the fact that the band started as Matt's initial vision and he writes the lyrics and is a painter, it's always all been tied together. The cover art visually conveys the feelings the lyrics evoke. Outside of all that, we've always been guys who've poured over artwork, lyrics, liner notes etc. There was nothing better as a kid than getting a new record or tape and locking yourself in your room and diving into that stuff when playing a record for the first time. I still do that. Except it’s not my bedroom, it's my "office." And I have to wait for the kids to go to bed.

SL) 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?

MIKE- Nothing crazy, like I said, our touring has been pretty limited and we're too old and paranoid to be doing outrageously stupid shit at this point. Normal stupid shit sure, but nothing that makes for an exciting tour anecdotes. Although there was one tour we did with Nick's other band The Proselyte (watch out for their new record, its ridiculous) where a friend of all of ours procured an RV and drove the whole tour for us, which felt quite luxurious. I think someone's mom made a massive amount of enchiladas which consistently fell out of the fridge every time we took a turn. Was wild man.

SL). Reflecting upon your time together as a band, what have been some of the high and 
low point in your careers?  

MIKE- Well, let's face it dude, we're not exactly Led Zeppelin in the twilight of our careers so there's not a lot of reflecting to be done. I can't speak for everyone but for me, when Terri (Christopher) left that was a real bum out and sort of a confusing time. We knew we wanted to keep doing it but it was still a bummer because we're friends and enjoyed being able to see each other every week. At this point the band is sort of my social life so when she left I knew I wouldn't get to see her as much. High points for me are whenever we have a particularly productive practice, finish a new song, get to spend time in the studio and playing a particularly good show where we genuinely like all the bands we're playing with both personally and musically AND we play a good set. The Old Man Gloom show we did comes to mind in that respect.

SL) Mike, I’m genuinely a massive fan and congratulation again, A War of Light Cones, is 
up there with my favourite records of 2013, Thanks for answering my questions, but one 
final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans? 

-Mike: Thanks Aaron! We're genuinely grateful anyone gives a fuck. If you like a band, or any type of artist for that matter, supports them by either spreading the word, buying their shit, or better yet, both.
Interview by : Aaron Pickford
As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links.  You can buy the record here. This record is available on DD everywhere too. A fucking massive thank you to Mike Gowell for taking the time to answer questions and Curran Reynolds for help hooking it up.  Lastly, support this band, you're a wimp if you don't.  haha.  Seriously, check out this review and buy their merch.