Wednesday 9 July 2014

Interview with Ron Vanacore (Guitar/Vocals) of Curse The Son

When putting together 2013’s year end list, inexplicably I included two bands who would go on be signed to STB Records. The commonality between the two is simple; they play fuzz laden stoner doom.  Their music immediately resonated with me, indeed those records ‘Psychache’ and ‘777’ were of such high quality, I would go on to place them equally at no.3 in my list. 

Whilst in the bigger scheme of things, my opinion matters not a jot in the multiverse of internet music journalism,  however what is important, is The Sludgelord’s support of bands doing it DIY.  Indeed the ethos of the site is the same; we do this shit because we have a passion for music.

The two bands in question, Curse The Son and Goya were two great examples of bands self releasing music via bandcamp in 2013 and we can expect vinyl releases from both via STB Records over the coming weeks and months.  With that in mind, I am going to be focusing my attention on the first of them, Curse The Son.  To set the scene, I originally contact Ron Vanacore (Guitar/Vocals) to suggest an interview during the latter part of 2013, however following the announcement of a deal with STB Records in September, I thought it would be prudent to bide my time and wait to discuss not only the heritage of Curse The Son but also their debut vinyl release too. 

Fast forward to July 2014, and Ron was gracious enough to talk to me.  So kick back, swig a cold one and enjoy the interview.  The complaints department is closed.

SL) Ron, welcome to The Sludgelord, good to talk to you. 

RV) It is good to be back with you.  I always look forward to a visit with the premiere stoner/doom site on the web.  You guys have always been a great supporter of Curse the Son and I want to thank you for that!

SL) We first talked about an interview following the release of Psychache but postponed it a little to coincide with the vinyl release.  Fast forward 12 months and here we are!! How are things at CtS HQ? Summarize 2014 so far and your immediate plans for the rest of the year? 

RV) Things are good with the band. We prefer to not oversaturate the market with shows.  For us it is better to play a few HUGE shows that are going to make a statement than play every weekend just for the sake of doing it.  We played a great show in January at Toads Place, which is in New Haven, Connecticut.  It was a great gig with about 500 in attendance. It’s funny because I remember when Curse the Son first started gigging in 2009; barely anyone around here in Connecticut knew what stoner/doom was! Over the years the crowds have grown a lot and the reception just gets better all the time!  People are genuinely into what we are doing. There are some new bands around here that are representing the stoner vibe, which is very cool as well.  I am not sure if we had anything to do with it, but it is great nevertheless. 

We also played Eyes Of The Stoned Goat in Worcester, Mass this past May and that was an awesome experience as well.  Brendan Burns is a complete professional and always puts on great events.  We played later on a Sunday night, so understandably people were pretty fried by the time we played, but it was still a killer reception and probably our best performance in quite a while.  Stoner/doom shows are always great because the crowd is always so cool.  No tough guy attitudes or fighting, just friendly folks who want to get roasted and listen to brutally loud music!

SL) Before we get onto the good stuff (imminent vinyl release), Can you perhaps give us an idea of the roots behind the band? Who you are that kind of thing? It is your opportunity to tell the world about yourself. 

RV) I started Curse the Son in 2008 as a “solo project”.  My previous band Sufferghost had just gone on indefinite hiatus due to our guitar player Tony Buhagiar’s unfortunate health problems.  I wrote and recorded 4 songs on my own in the spring/summer of ’08.  I needed something to use to recruit members to create an actual band.  This recording turned out to be the ‘Globus Hystericus’ EP that was released in the fall of ’08. 

Cheech Weeden (Bass) and I have played together for many years in many different bands including Sufferghost.  He and I played with a myriad of drummers over the course of the next couple years.  We recorded the ‘Klonopain’ record with drummer Rich Lemley in the spring of 2010.  That was met with a great response from the stoner/doom community and we were on our way from there.

Michael Petrucci (Drums) joined us in June 2011.  We spent that entire summer just writing songs.  Mike completely reenergized us and helped take our writing to another level.  Those songs turned out to be the ‘Psychache’ record that was officially released in January 2013.  It is impossible to explain how awesome it felt when the reviews started to come in for ‘Psychache’!  It seemed that everyone who was anyone was blown away by what we had created.  I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to top “Klonopain”, but most told us that “Psychache” was on a completely different level!   It is so exciting and humbling when your peers have such high praise towards a piece of art that we worked so hard to create.  Very overwhelming.

SL) Steve and I would talk about his desire to sign you for the vinyl release for months prior to the eventual announcement and he steers a great ship at STB Records. So, here we are, when did you guys first hook up with STB Records and how did it come about?  His passion for vinyl is infectious, right?

RV) Absolutely!  Steve LOVES vinyl…STB Records is his passion and it shows.  It’s funny because ‘Psychache’ has had many releases.  The first was an unofficial release at SHOD 2012 where we handed out advanced copies of the record.  Then we had an official CD release on January 1, 2013.  From January to June 2013 we were still holding back on an online release because we were in talks with various record labels and didn’t want to jump the gun.  As July 2013 approached we grew weary of playing the waiting game.  I knew that ‘Psychache’ was a great record and needed to be heard worldwide.  We decided to put the record up on as a “pay what you want” download.  In the first 2 days alone we had over 400 downloads/sales!  Not bad for a band with no label, no PR…nothing. 

Steve was one of the first people to contact me the night ‘Psychache’ went live online.  He was really into the record and felt that it was something special.  We had many more conversations over the next couple weeks and we signed the contract in September.  He really cares about the records he releases and each one has it’s own unique touch.

SL) With the release perhaps only weeks away, what can you tell us about the release and what are your overall thoughts about your debut vinyl release, its fan boy stuff right?  You must be stoked?

RV) Completely stoked!  All of my life it has been a dream of mine to have my very own record! When I was a kid, I used to sit in my room with my records and stare at the artwork, memorize the lyrics and listen to the vinyl over and over again.  Once CD’s became the norm, I figured that my dream was dead, but with the resurgence of vinyl it is once again a great reality.  It really is awesome.

SL). Taking the release as a whole, how much involvement did you have in terms of overall package? Do you feel added pressure considering previous STB releases have sold out, haha (It’s inevitable it will, of course)

RV) My wife and I put in a lot of work to make the artwork killer.  She is a graphic designer who has worked on many albums before.  We knew what we wanted to do concept wise from the get-go, and we made it happen. Steve is completely in charge of the Die-Hard editions of the records that he puts out, so I had very little to do with that.  Judging from the past Die-Hard editions he’s done I’m very excited to see what he has created. 

As far as pressure, I put myself under vast amounts of undue pressure every minute of the day.  I am a huge ball of fucking stress and anxiety unfortunately.

SL) As a music fan yourself and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, is it important to offer a great package to your fans, but at the same time not alienate them by producing something which is not affordable. Did you approach the vinyl release with trepidation or were you confident that STB Records would produce a product you could be proud of?

RV) Offering a great package was a HUGELY important to us.  That is why working with Steve has been such a pleasure.  The dude truly gives a shit, and sinks a lot of time and effort into putting out the absolute best product possible.  Our working relationship has been a very positive and productive one that I don’t usually encounter with people in this business. 

It means so much to me personally that Steve believes in Curse the Son and ‘Psychache’ so much.  I have been trying to be on an actual record label my whole life and now it is a reality.  To have someone believe in you completely, put their wallet and reputation on the line for you is not something to be taken lightly. 

SL) Taking the vinyl release out of the equation for a moment, what are your thoughts about Psychache now, given that the record was released in Jan ‘13. It is very strong vocally and laden with riffs, is Psychache representative of the direction your music is headed in the future?

RV) I think ‘Psychache’ holds up very well.  Like I mentioned earlier, those songs were written almost 3 years ago and I still really enjoy listening to them.  The music has such sonic weight to it.  Heavy in every sense of the word and it takes the listener on a real trip!

You can never make the same album twice, nor should you.  The newer stuff we have been working on does have the same key elements, as I feel that we are really starting to find “our” sound.   With that said ‘Psychache’ was a different record than ‘Klonopain’, and the new one will be just the next natural progression for us. 

SL) What would be the ‘goal’ for CtS as a band and thoughts on the emergence of retro type bands such as Orchid and its increasing popularity?  Bigger labels seem to picking up bands too, more recently Brimstone Coven. Is that something that is attractive to you as a band? 

RV) Listen, all I want is for our music to reach as many people as possible.  Whatever vehicle will help us to gain that exposure is what I am for.  I believe the key is not so much the label, but the distribution and advertising.  If you can get your music into the eyes and ears of the public, good things are going to happen. 

I still believe that the labels are missing out by not giving us our shot.  Between the awesome reviews from within our genre, and the word from the folks who buy and download our music, I truly believe that we deserve our shot.  I hope that with this vinyl release and the upcoming release of the third record we will be finally recognized as a band to reckon with.

SL) Tell us some of your influences/heroes both musically and artistically, both metal and non-metal? Was there a specific band or artist turned you onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal/Rock and wanting to form a band? 

RV) Ozzy Osbourne was the one who really did it for me.  I remember when ‘Diary Of A Madman’ came out I was so blown away by the whole thing.  I was a young kid then, so naturally I bought into the myth that Ozzy was the main talent behind the music.  He had it all…the look, the stage show, the antics and Randy Rhoads of course.  My vocal style was built off of two singers really, Ozzy and Zeeb Parkes from Witchfinder General. 

Honestly, I don’t really listen to much new music.  Currently I am on a mid to late period Zeppelin kick: ‘Houses Of The Holy’, ‘Physical Graffiti’ and ‘Presence’.  ‘Presence is really a great album that tends to get overlooked when thinking of Zeppelin.  ‘Houses Of The Holy’ has the best drum sound and includes the incomparable ‘No Quarter’.  I really only listen to metal and hard rock so there really wouldn’t be many surprises if you saw my music collection. 

SL) Using those influences as a reference point, did they form the basis of the direction where you wanted to take the band and how you approached writing for CtS?

In 2005 I formed the band Sufferghost with Tony Buhagiar and Cheech Weeden.  Sufferghost was a stoner/doom band and I was singing and playing drums.  We made some killer fucking music in that band! Unfortunately in 2007, our record was completed and we were getting ready to play, Tony suffered an Aortic Dissection… essentially his heart burst.  Thankfully he lived, but he was left paraplegic and returned to his hometown of Hayward, California to recover. 

This awesome band never did see the stage, which is really unfortunate.  I took some time off and contemplated if I wanted to continue playing music anymore, as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in a band without Tony.  He encouraged me to begin again and that is where Curse the Son was born.  I always said that Curse the Son was a branch off of the Sufferghost tree.  Sufferghost was more stoner than doom.  I took CtS into a doomier direction.  Curse the Son has always been my dedication to Tony and the memory of Sufferghost. 

If anyone is interested in hearing the Sufferghost album ‘Thaw’ it will be up on by the time this interview is printed.  It is a really great record that deserves to be heard.  Tony is rocking again out in California playing in the band Tuco Ramirez, they play great up-tempo hard rock.

SL) What attracted you to ‘doom’ music per se and that particular style of music with reference to your own sound? In short, what is it about the doom sound that made CtS perhaps want to emulate that?

RV) It’s funny I was just thinking about this story the other day.  Back in mid-80’s, my first band Black Wytche was a thrash metal band. Every time a new band came out the music seemed to get faster and faster.  This was around the time that Kreator released ‘Pleasure to Kill’.  We were going to open for them and Voivod here in Connecticut so we were beginning to push ourselves to play faster than them.  We were having a discussion one day about thrash metal and where it was going to go, I half jokingly said, “I bet the next big thing will be which band can play the slowest”.  I figured after a certain point you couldn’t get much faster and still remain musical, so the logical thing would be to go in the opposite direction. 

I was already really into Witchfinder General and Cirith Ungol, but they had been broken up for a couple years by this point, I knew of Trouble and had heard of St. Vitus.  Candlemass came out, and then it was Cathedral.  By ’88 I was listening to all of my old Sabbath records again.  Masters Of Reality hit, and then of course I first heard Sleep and Monster Magnet on a local college radio station. 

I was in this band in the mid-90’s and people kept telling us how we reminded them of Kyuss.  At that point I did not know who Kyuss was at all, so it was completely coincidental.  The folks around here used to say we played Swamp Metal!  The doom element has always been a part of me as well as all of my bands over my years…. whether it was obvious or not. 

SL)  How is the ‘heavy’ scene in Connecticut?

RV) It is mostly dominated by death metal and metalcore bands.  Thankfully like I previously mentioned there has been an influx of bands who share the same influences and vibes that we do.  Sea of Bones is a great band that was around even before we were, total sludged out doom.  Those guys are so fucking loud that earplugs make no difference, you can actually feel your brain shaking when they play.  There are some other bands as well like Nightbitch, Entierro, Insano Vision, VRSA, Mind Over Master and Stikpin.

SL) I’m assuming all musicians like to talk about the gear they use. With that in mind, what do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use? 

RV) I am a proud endorser of Dunwich Amplification.  The owner, Nicholas Williams is a very good friend of mine and he loves Curse the Son.  We actually met on MySpace way back when I first got CtS going.  He was the first dude in Connecticut to show interest in the band.  Long story short, almost everything I use, he has custom built for me. 

I use 2 DA-120’s, which are similar to the old Matamp GT-120’s, but he tailored the sound to my tastes.  I also use a Dunwich Pyramid Fuzz that is beyond fucking brutal.  I use Mesa Boogie Rectifier cabs loaded with V-30’s.  I run the amps in stereo using two 4x12’s on my side and one 4x12 and one 2x12 on the other side of the stage.  My primary guitar is a Gibson SG standard tuned to A# Standard. 

SL) Has their been much opportunity for CtS to do live shows? Is playing live important to CtS, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc? 

RV) We love to play out live, but finding the right gigs is a different story.  Touring is something that is a bit difficult for me at this point because I am in Graduate School and can’t afford to miss any time.  At some point I would like to do some “weekend warrior” tours and get out to some of the places where our fans are.  We get people asking us to come to their state all of the time, we’ve even got people begging us to come over to Europe and beyond.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I would love to get a chance to tour at least once.

SL) How valuable are blogs and social media? 

RV) Invaluable.  It really has levelled the playing field for everyone.  We have fans from all over the world and that is amazing.  With the click of a button you can listen to our music, buy it; see what we are about live via YouTube.  Bandcamp is THE best site out there, bar none.  Both ‘Psychache’ and ‘Klonopain’ have gone well over 2000 each for downloads and sales.  Again, not bad for a band that doesn’t tour, has no label and no PR firm pushing our name.  Imagine what we could accomplish with someone backing us?

It is an amazing tool, but I do feel that it has caused music to become more of a commodity than an experience like it used to be.  For me, music was a religion unto itself.  There was a mystery about it that doesn’t exist anymore.  When I was a kid you had your record, some posters, magazine articles and maybe a video of your favourite band if you were lucky…that was it!  If you went to see a band live, you had no idea what the set list was, or what the stage show was like…it was all fresh and new.  You had to have patience and wait until your favourite bands came through town.  I miss that about music now and I feel sorry for the generations who will never know what that was like.

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

RV) I would have to choose CD’s for clarity but Vinyl for the warmth, vibe and the artwork.

SL) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question. Do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans and what can we expect from CtS in the future, new record? Tours

RV) Thank you so much for your support and belief in us!  Whether you downloaded for free or paid, sent us messages on Facebook or emailed us personally we recognize each and every one of you and we love you.

We will begin recording the 3rd record at some point in the fall and we hope to have it available by January 1st 2015.  There are no song titles or even an album title yet, but I can promise that it will be another dark acid trip filled with smoked up riffs and desperate words.  Here’s hoping that one of the ‘big-boy’ labels will give this one a shot and help us to reach the next level.

Thanks to The Sludgelord and all of the online zines and blogs, Steve at STB Records and most importantly you, the fans. 
Doom on brothers and sisters~

A huge thank you to Ron for taking the time to talk to me, if you haven’t downloaded ‘Psychache’, you can do so here.  The vinyl will be available to buy soon via STB Records here and keep your eyes open for a forthcoming review.  Thanks as ever to you guys for reading.  Support DIY and support heavy music.  Doom on.  Photographs courtesy of R. Vanacore and in turn, DeMusis, Franzman and Amber (C)

Words & Interview by:  Aaron Pickford

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