Wednesday 5 February 2014

Interview with BUZZHERD

On Sinking Ships...Rats Drown cover art

Now on Sludgelord, I am interviewing rising Psych/Thrash/Doom/Stoner Metal upstarts – BUZZHERD – who are starting to make a name for themselves within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community with their uncompromising blend of hard-hitting riffs.

Ben Bowman recently described their new album On Sinking Ships... Rats Drown as

is an aggressive and crusty metal record, summoned from a sweaty, mid-winter basement show. Passages of sludge and doom mix with chugging metal riffs and a punk-rock ethos throughout the 31-minute, 6-song album. Their sound is salty and dirty, and their songs hit hard.“

I had to find out more about from these genre-defying rockers and see what makes them tick. So here is my interview with BUZZHERD

1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today? Thanks for talking to us at Sludgelord HQ.

Jay: We are most excellent today sir, we actually lived up to the above statement regarding the sweaty mid-winter basement show. We played one the other night, the review was a prophecy. Thanks for the kind words, and for reaching out for the interview.

Justin: Things are good as long as we have access to the film Commando (or Cobra in a pinch). Steel drums to infinity as a torture device or carrying around a match in your mouth for no apparent reason.

2 – Can you give our readers a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today?

Jay: The band came into existence a little before Christmas, 2010. It was initially myself and Dan, who played drums in a band I was in previous to this one. We started jamming and decided it was time to find more members. Everyone who played or has played in this band came into it through mutual contacts, except for Justin, we found him on Craigslist. Dan had to vacate the drum throne a few months later, and around that time Terry took his rightful position behind the microphone. Our now 3rd drummer Blake, and 2nd rhythm guitarist Bryan make up the current roster of musical accomplices. This lineup of the band is more intoxicating than Frank Booth’s respirator in Blue Velvet.

Bryan: I’m in another project with Justin and Terry. Last summer when the guitarist position opened up for Buzzherd, it only seemed natural to hop on board.

3 – So. Lets start off with your sound. How would you describe it as you include a lot of great noises and sounds, which is very hard to categorize?

Jay: Yeah, I know. It’s a tough one. Whenever people hear you’re in a band the second question, after what do you play , is what do you sound like, or what kind of band are you? I usually go with the vague categorization of “metal”. Sometimes people want a deeper answer, the response would be, well, we are like slow and heavy with occasional mid to fast tempo thrash parts, with a tendency to indulge in psychedelic flourishes if at all possible.

Terry: If I were to pigeonhole us I’d make up a non existent sub-genre and say we are the first. We only play exactly that. Honestly we all come from different influences that have managed to mesh together pretty awesomely. Mesh-metal? That sounds dumb.

Justin: I’d call it metal just because I don’t want to pigeonhole us into some narrowly defined subgenre. There are plenty of other people who will do that for us, anyway! I view it this way: we’re like that Por-eef stuff from Kids in the Hall – we have the bite of metal but the chew of a more typically bass-heavy form of music like doom or something. We put all the shit we listen to in a confined space and let nature take its eventual course.

4 – Which bands and artists influenced you all as musicians?

Jay: Slayer, early Metallica, Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Eyehategod, Iron Monkey Butthole Surfers, Bad Brains, Iron Maiden, Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Uli Jon Roth, Ace Frehley, Vinnie Vincent (not really) Corrosion of Conformity’s Technocracy album, Bl’ast, the bands of Glenn Danzig, Thin Lizzy, Voivod, most of the bands Justin listed as well. I can get inspiration and ideas from just about anything I listen to.

Bryan: Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Protest the Hero, Faceless, Misery Signals, Unearth, Orange Goblin, Slayer, Thrice, At the Drive‐In, Periphery, Sikth, Russian Circles. Anything that sounds good!

Terry: I think the first time I wanted to sing in a band was the first time I heard Exhumed’s Gore Metal. Those trading off vocals kill so much! As far as writing goes Neil Fallon’s writing amazed me growing up. He’s an awesome storyteller.

Blake: Iron Maiden, Helmet, Murder City Devils, Shellac, 16, Opeth, Katherine Katz, Three Mile Pilot, Cro-Mags, Church of Misery, D.R.I. Jawbreaker, Avail, Fu Manchu, Karp

Justin: Melvins, Dale Crover, Motorhead, Vitus, Hawkwind, Venom, Celtic Frost, film soundtracks like the guy who did the Nekromantik and Der Todesking scores (Hermann Kopp), Acid King, Discharge, most of Jay’s list, and a lot more. There aren’t really a lot of individual bassists that I would cite here; I’m more interested in bands as a whole generally speaking.

5 – What made you decide to become a musician? Any particular band or life-changing event?

Jay: Music has always played a significant role in my life. I would say the initial inspiration to pick up the guitar was Mick Mars believe it or not. The guitar tone on “Shout at the Devil” made me want to do that and sound like that. I still listen to that record. It’s been with me forever. Later on I really wanted to learn to play like Slayer and Metallica.

Blake: One of my good friends growing up, had an older brother that I really looked up to. He skated and played drums in a local band. They had a half pipe at their house, and I spent all my time there. Mark practiced in a shed, and I just fell in love with the sounds I heard. I was around fourteen, when I asked my parents to take drum lessons. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Justin: I got into the Melvins via Nirvana fandom (I still love Nirvana even though I really got sick of people wearing those “1967-1994” RIP shirts) and delved into heavy music from there – that was like my gateway. I still think Dale Crover is the best drummer out there (phrasing, tastefulness, creativity, you name it) and I’ve seen the Melvins at least 30 times now.

Terry: I’ve always been crazy about music. I think anybody who’s immersed in a punk/metal/whatever scene from an early age at some point is like give me an instrument! I need to fucking do this! My slope into it probably started with me and a friend shoplifting a Master of Puppets tape and playing it till it broke. Or going to my first show with my cousin to see the Queers.

6 – Where does the name Buzzherd come from. Any particular meaning behind it.

Jay: The whole thought behind it was that it would be just a different way to spell Buzzard, seeing how there are or have been countless bands with that name I’m sure. Actually saying our name like that for us in the band, and everyone else we know, didn’t last long so we pretty much just say we’re Buzz-herd. I like the name because you can draw a few meanings out of it, if you so desire anyway. It’s also the best thing we could come up with at the time.

7 – You have read our review of your excellent new album. How would you best describe your album?

Justin: I like the term “excellent” – some other choice terms to describe it could be “with heft,” “turn this shit up to 11,” or a “blitzkrieg of the insane.”

Jay: “A musically deviant concoction”, or “what were these guys thinking”?

8 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for?

Jay: It was fairly easy to write for. The first few riffs in Abuse of Despair was some of the earliest material I wrote for this band, Justin had the first riff in the Maloik, we set these songs aside for awhile which worked out really well because we were able to develop them much better at a later date. I came up with Indrid, that’s the only song I wrote all the riffs for. We collaborate for the most part, even if someone doesn’t write a particular part, the part you have may be critiqued, leading to a better part being written in its place. The quality control mechanism in this band is operating above average for sure.

Blake: When I joined the band, they already had a handful of songs. I was a fan prior and knew most of their stuff. I changed some of the drum parts to fit my style. From the first time I played with these guys, It just felt right. The songs came together pretty naturally.

Justin: I found it mostly easy. I contributed some of the riffs across most of the songs as Jay detailed above (the first riff in The Maloik when the whole band comes in is one I am especially proud of), and some lyrical passages in Abuse of Despair and The Maloik. Basically if the part sounds really weird or just somehow strange, odds are it’s something that popped out of my head which we either used as it was or slightly altered to fit better. I think Jay once told the guys in Cauldron that all the odd stuff was my fault, ha! I write a ton of material (it’s almost compulsive) so I’ve found I have to do a lot of self-editing prior to bringing stuff in since I don’t want to just inundate everyone with it.

9 – You have come up with some interesting song titles. Can you tell us some of the reasons behind them?

Terry: Abuse of Despair Is about the person who is always piling their own problems on you without ever taking a minute to consider anyone else.

Indrid Cold is loosely based on the urban legend. In the song it is an alien who comes to earth to offer us access to the universe if humans would put away their differences and how I imagine that would play out.

Maloik is about someone who is cursed to relive their life with crippling depression. They are told the only way to end the curse and return to their normal life is to kill themselves or else in consequence become an undying slave.

Stakes and Snares is a reference to one of my favorite parts in Watership Down

Gigas is about an ethereal being on earth who is perpetually trying to die at the hand of someone with a pure heart. I wrote it about an idea I had for a short film.

I definitely have these big stories in my head for most songs I write. I just hope it translates well into the music ha ha!

10 – Your album is starting to receive a whole load of praise within the Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal scene. Are you pleased with the responses so far?

Jay: Oh, absolutely! It’s actually very humbling in a way. It’s really cool to see other people describe our music, and to pretty much nail what we are going for, and to write about how much they’re enjoying what we created. Most of us create music because we love it and that’s just what we do, but one of the main goals is to have other people get into it. I’m stoked that people are into it!

Blake: I’m extremely pleased. Proud to be a part of the metal community. Listening to metal is fun, but playing it is beyond comparison.

Justin: I’m really gratified to see that what we are doing is gaining some support. There are a lot of people to thank for their kind words or for providing other forms of support. I feel like we have put the time and effort into creating something that stands apart from what is admittedly a very crowded field of bands working in the doom/metal/stoner kind of thing. We have elements of all the things we like in the band’s songs, and this is really just the beginning…we are currently putting together new songs that take these elements and really amplify them tenfold (like a Gorilla amp).

11 – Do you guys gig a lot in your hometown or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly?

Justin: We’ve played extensively locally and also done a number of shows in the tri-state area (mostly in Philly but also in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland). As we have broadened our reach we have been able to maintain a pretty good balance between both local and out of town shows.

Terry: Bethlehem and the surrounding Lehigh Valley area is a Fuckin awesome area to be in for music. The local scene is A great place to cut your teeth as a band and filled with people who are amped about music in general. Not to mention the sweet ass Bands we get to play with all the time.

12 – In 5 words or less what is the live BUZZHERD experience like.

Jay: thunderous, Bacchanalian, moist, green

Justin: Relentless; Reduce you to jelly

Terry: A head bangin good time

13 – What is you live equipment setup when performing live. Do you have an ultra-modern setup as you guys do have a very thick sound indeed.

Jay: I have a Mesa dual rec, and play out of a Mesa 2x12, 2 Orange 1x12, and a random Peavey 4x12. Both the guitars I play are equipped with active EMG’s. There’s some other gear I would like to try out, but this setup is delivering the goods. No need to tamper with a winning formula.

Justin: Simple! Fender P into SVT 4 mono bridged to 8 by 10 cab. Add nasty fuzz. I prefer P’s and T-Birds since I feel that they have a hard yet booming and grinding quality to their low end. To me it’s straight-up power. I hate twangy bass sounds for my stuff so I focus on supplying powerful low end and lo-mids (a well-balanced bass sound for the most part) and then I add really buzzy nasty fuzz. It’s a gut-wrenching low-end roar with enough definition to make it intelligible. I’m not a big fan of boutique bass kind of things or all kinds of bells and whistles as I think they can easily neuter an instrument that should be brutally powerful and driving. In short, I like the classic designs best.

14 – If you could change anything within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner/Thrash Metal community what would it be. Good or Bad.

Justin: I’d like to see more bands that struck me as just batshit insane as far as combining traditional metal/doom elements with things that were outside the norm. Like why isn’t there a doom/gospel choir band? Or a thrash band that uses distorted autoharp? I don’t know of one. But I would love to find out otherwise! So I guess what I’m saying is I want to see less orthodoxy in the music?

Terry: Stop the snobbery. It’s always awesome being the first person you know to find that awesome fucking band. It’s annoying as fuck trying to hold a conversation with someone about music when their constantly trying to tell you about this band that has one demo tape recorded in an ossuary in Poland that they only made 10 copies of that is a million times better than anything you’ve ever heard. Although if you bring me that tape I will listen to it.

Jay: I agree on both accounts. I think it can be boiled down to the hipster thing. It’s outta control.

15 – The album is being released on Dullest Records. How did you hook up with them? A really cool label that's recently started to interest me.

Justin: We played a show at 1 am in Easton back in late 2012 with label head Danny Katz’s band Hollenlarm and he expressed interest in working with us. The relationship has been quite beneficial for us and has enabled us to put out this album, so it’s turned out to be a good decision! We were definitely impressed with their roster from the start.

16 – Are there any plans to release the album on vinyl as it would make a great sounding record? Loud, thick and angry as hell.

Justin: Vinyl is the next thing we want to do. We are working on getting it executed so the fine people around the globe can enjoy us in a new format!

Terry: It’s gonna happen. I’ll sell a kidney.

17 – What is your verdict on the whole crowd-funding scene currently going on. Are you a fan of this medium and would yourselves ever go down this route.

Justin: I don’t cast any aspersions onto anyone who uses it, because at the end of the day people can choose whether or not to support your project (that said, people who crowd-fund and misrepresent what they are doing should be strung up by their thumbs). But I would not go down that road myself. Most of the time when I see something that is being crowd-sourced, it isn’t something I have any interest in whatsoever. So I just don’t see anything of mine as being a part of that world.

18 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band, what helpful advice would you give them?

Terry: Do it. Now. You can learn to play as you go. Find somebody who’s bored and a slightly better musician than you and make music. You’ll never regret it no matter how much you suck

Justin: Look anywhere and everywhere for potential band members. Write constantly and learn how to siphon your best ideas from the ones that aren’t as good. Network. People who are unreliable at the start do not generally get more reliable over time. Listen to each others’ ideas and communicate clearly. If you know a change has to be made to move forward, do it and don’t look back. Have a good time and don’t take yourself too seriously. Oh, and don’t let a few naysayers or know-nothing know-it-alls derail you.

19 – Finally, Thanks for talking to us here at Sludgelord HQ. Do you have anything to say to your fans?

Jay: Thanks to the people that were at the Brooklyn show the other week! Stay tuned for our 1st music video (The Maloik) which should be premiering somewhere online within the next few weeks. Also a huge thanks to Cat Jones for all her work and for being an exceptional human being.

Well guys thanks for doing this. All the best for your album in 2014.

Thanks to Cat Jones at Southern Cross PR for arranging this interview.

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Written by Steve Howe and Buzzherd