Sunday 9 February 2014

Interview with GHOLAS

Litanies cover art

Today on Sludgelord, it's my pleasure to be Sci-fi Tinged Progressive Sludge Metallers – GHOLAS

I have been a fan of Gholas for a few years now ever since I heard their excellent debut ablum - Загадка – which had a breathtaking blend of Progressive Sludge/Post-Metal riffs fused with Sci-Fi influences from Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert an Arthur C. Clarke.

Gholas are about to release their stunning and even better 2nd album – Litanies – on Feb 11th 2014 and it's even more spellbinding and complex as their first album.

I recently described the album as:

Gholas have some brilliant ideas here that will leave you begging for more. Trust me folks but this is the first great Post-Metal album to own in 2014.

Post-Metal has been called Thinking Man's Metal in the past and Gholas have embraced this philosophy head-on and it proves the band are a truly forward thinking band with ideas that will last for years to come.

Litanies is an incredible experience which ourselves at Sludgelord HQ are huge fans of. This album is going to be in my best of 2014 list. It's seriously that great.”

I had to find out more about GHOLAS, so lets see what they have to say to us at Sludgelord HQ.

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

Chris: Thank you. We appreciate your support.

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

Bob: Gholas formed following the dissolution of a previous band. My original intent was to make incredibly loud music to the point of making people physically ill, and the members of the band at the time seemed ok with that aim; but perhaps they may disagree. Now, I think everyone in the band is excited to play shows and support an album that we are proud of while at the same time writing material for our next record.

Chris: I was finishing school, and hadn't done much musically in years because of being isolated from most of the world living in central PA. When I was done, and had moved back, Bob and Dave's last band was wrapping up and we moved into this one.

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.

Bob: For my part, I love drones and discordance and feedback. So, I try to include those elements as much as possible when writing music for Gholas. I think that in our attempts to honor our various influences we have slowly over time been getting closer to integrating all of that much more cohesively into our sound. Like, individually we bring a wealth of background to the table from admiration for harsh noise artists to ambient artists to early no wave to hardcore punk to post punk, and I think trying to incorporate those disparate influences has made categorization a little hard to pin down.

Chris: I remember getting ready to go into the studio and talking to our engineer and saying "I want this record to sound like barely controlled chaos." I think we hit that point several times on the record... that point where it seems like the whole thing is about to get away from us.

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

Bob: I’ll give you my short version. I love Michael Gira and Norman Westerberg, particularly their work with early and current Swans. Kieth Huckins and his work with Kiss It Goodbye, Deadguy, and Rorschach is another big influence. Robert Fripp’s work with Brian Eno and David Bowie is another guitar influence. Aaron Turner’s work with House Of Low Culture, Jodis, Mamiffer, and Lotus Eaters for ambient sound. Aidan Baker and Nadja is another influence for ambient sound. Liz Harris in Grouper is another. Vice Wears Black Hose and the Rita are noise influences. I could go on and on probably. As far as bands, I mentioned some already but also including Coalesce, Bloodlet, Locrian, Neurosis, Joy Division, and Amebix as influences is necessary.

Chris: I used to play bass back when I was a teenager. I remember getting Deadguy's "Fixation on a Coworke"r and my jaw dropping. I started moving to guitar soon after. Nowadays I pull influences from anything I hear. I know Clint Mansell's movie scores for The Fountain and Moon are really good references for me for melody. Just about anything I come across.

5 – Your a lot different compared to other Sludge/Post-Metal bands as you include works of legendary Sci-Fi Writers. When did you decide to include themes from classical science fiction novels. And are all the band members science fiction fans.

Bob: From the very beginning we decided to embrace are sci fi nerd status though it might be more appropriate to specifically mention Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Stanislaw Lem, and of course Philip K. Dick (his themes of paranoia, isolation, and detachment color much of our lyrical themes).

Chris: I think Bob and Dave were a little more Sci-fi nerdy than I. I always loved Sci-fi movies, but when we decide on a theme for a record, it's almost like getting homework- you go out and buy the book.

6 – What made you decide to become a musician. Any particular band or life changing event.

Bob: Chris and my dad is a guitarist and has been playing for over 50 years so it has been in my blood since early on in my life. One of my most vivid early memories is sitting with headphones on listening to Black Sabbath and Cream, particularly their song “Politician”.

Chris: Bob covered that for me. We grew up with it. Our dad actually played on the last record, and will probably show up again.

7 – Where does the name GHOLAS come from. Any particular meaning behind it.

Bob: So Gholas comes from Frank Herbert’s writing in Dune. A Ghola is much like a clone in that they are an individual grown from the cells of another individual. The difference between a clone and a ghola is that a ghola is grown from the dead cells of an individual and they retain the sum knowledge and experience of the life of the previous individual rather than being a blank slate. In a way it is like reincarnation except the person is the same person and gets to live life again picking up from the day that they died.

We named the band Gholas because the band was kind of a continuation of what our previous bands were doing while also incorporating other things. Gholas is the sum of its past lives.

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

Bob: Angry, paranoid, isolated, detached and a bit closer to my vision for the band. It is not perfect, but nothing in life ever is. Warts and all, I am proud of this record.

Chris: I think this one is more straightforward than the last. More accessible in that regard, but more abrasive too, which might catch people off-guard.

9 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for. As you have included a ton of brilliant and baffling ideas which even I have a hard time to understand. Was that the idea behind this album as it also took me a while to understand your debut album Загадка – which I love as well.

Bob: I am a firm believer that nothing in life worth doing is ever easy. There were definite challenges recording the record, but in many ways, I believe that the band overcame many of the issues of recording, though it cost us mentally and physically. At one point while doing vocals, I did black out and fall in the vocal booth as a result of the physical strain of doing the vocals. I have never been more physically exhausted in regards to recording music. Writing wise I tried to simplify my approach for the songs in a lot of way to be a much more compact and direct while also making dense record full of sound, kind of like an extreme variation of Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound” recording approach; at least, this was my aim.

Chris: There were some frustrating moments in the studio, we kept pushing ourselves. There are times we use the studio to our advantage, but there are times where we still go old school with no click-tracks or anything. All those off-time pauses and things were still played that way, as often as possible. We also get tough on each other, and make sure no one moves forward until everyone is happy.

10 – So where did the name for the new album came from. Litanies. Any particular meaning or reasoning behind it.

Bob: The album is a concept album dealing with themes and imagery from Frank Herbert’s original Dune trilogy. Litanies comes from the idea that the “Litany Against Fear” (I must Fear, Fear is the mind killer…) was one of several in the books and that our album was a collection of said litanies.

11 – Are you pleased with the final version of the album that is being released. Would you change anything about it.

Bob: Yes, I am pleased. There are several things that I would like to change, but I doubt that even if given the opportunity I would have the energy to revisit recording this album.

Chris: I love the album, I really do. Being there the whole process I can hear things that most people won't, but i still get pumped when I listen.

12 – What is the songwriting process in the band. Is it a group process or is it down to one individual.

Bob: This varies, though usually the impetus starts from a guitar riff from me or Chris and we build up from there. Now, from time to time there have been other methodologies; but this is the most consistent way.

Chris: Like Bob said, it usually starts with a riff, and usually from Bob. Most of the rest comes naturally.

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

Bob: We used to play more regularly, but due to some circumstances we really have not played live with any regularity in a few years. That is changing as we are fully supporting this record as much as we possibly can. Gholas is something that we do for fun as all of us have careers and some of us have families.

14 – In 5 words or less what is the live GHOLAS experience like.

Bob: From my personal perspective, cathartic.

Chris: Noise-Song-Feedback-Song- Repeat.

15 – What is you live equipment setup when performing live. You must have some complex setup as GHOLAS sound is very progressive in nature.

Bob: mine is very simple. I plug my guitar into my amp and play and scream my head off. I use no pedals or effects in Gholas.

Chris: I'm always swapping things out on my pedal board. What I use for distortion now isn't what i used to record, I'm always experimenting with something new. I have a stereo delay, stereo reverb, and that goes to 2 different amps through 2 different cabs. It's still fairly standard.

16 – 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.

Dave: We've been friendly with the owners of the label for a while through the local(ish) scene. They put out great stuff and when we were ready to release "Litanies" we approached them and they were happy to help release it. Pretty simple, but we're really excited to be working with them and they're excited to be working with us, so its a good pairing.

Загадка cover art

17 – Are there any plans to release the album on Vinyl as it would make a great sounding record on vinyl.

Bob: We would love to release everything we do on vinyl as we love the format and actually record what we do in a way that the records would fit onto sides of LPs and what not; for instance Litanies is just under 40 minutes with around 20 minutes a side, which is almost the perfect length for a single LP. We just do not have the money nor the resources to do a vinyl release.

18 – 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.

Bob: Crowd funding is a mixed bag. On one hand, I wholeheartedly support how Michael Gira and Swans funds their albums; while on the other the proliferation of such is insane and not well thought out by the majority of people and bands. Also, there have been several notable failures to deliver on the offerings with a crowd-funded endeavor where the people just pocket the cash. We are such a small group that crowd funding would not help us really.

Chris: I've supported a few things through kickstarter, but for myself? I'd probably never do it. I'd rather work for it.

19 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band. What helpful advice would you give them.

Chris: Not that I am qualified to give anybody advice, but I'd say don;t get hung up on any one style in particular. Just play.

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

Bob: Thanks for listening to our racket.

Chris: Thanks everyone.

Thanks to Gholas for taking time out to talk to us at Sludgelord HQ. Best of luck with the new album – Litanies – as it's seriously a thought provoking brilliant album.

Check The Band From Links Below.

Interview written by Steve Howe