Saturday 4 October 2014

Interview with BLACKSMOKER

ORIGINS cover art

We always try to look out for the best upcoming bands at Sludgelord HQ. A band that stands out from the crowd with their own blend of great riffs to show the world what they're made of. That happened recently when I listened to the début album of today's guests.

I have a feeling that these guys will be everywhere within the Sludge/Stoner Metal community in the next few months or so. Once the word gets out at how brilliant their debut album – Origins – actually is. My review of the album stated:

Blacksmoker is a hard‐rocking Stoner Metal band combining elements of Sludge, Doom and Hard Rock to their fast and furious angry as hell sound. Their debut album – Origins – is pure balls-to‐the‐wall album packed with a ton of great riffs to knock you the fuck out.

If you're a fan of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Baroness and Mastodon then you're going to be in musical heaven as Blacksmoker take elements of those great bands and conjure something up that sKll sounds so damn fresh and original. Blacksmoker add creepy sound‐bytes to their music which gives Origins a creepy doom and gloom atmosphere which may have you looking over your shoulder every few minutes or so.”

Germany has another awesome Sludge/Stoner Metal band to call upon if they ever decided to take over the Sludge/Stoner Metal world. I wanted to find out more about from the band that call themselves - BLACKSMOKER

Q1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today.

Sven: Hey Steve! Actually pretty cool! Just finished tracking a few vocals for new a song, I have a cold beverage in front of me and I’m also wearing no pants.

Marco: hey, thanks for having here.

Tobi: I'm fine. Thx for taking the time.

Q2 – Can you tell our readers a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.

Sven: Ok, this could be everything else than brief, heh. Well it pretty much started with the break up of ELISION ( in the end of 2010. A very fine band, where I was fortunate enough to rock A LOT of stages all throughout Europe. I played bass in Elision for over a decade and Marco on guitar pretty much from the beginning of the band in 1994. Although it ended with Elision, it was very clear that we can’t stop making music together. The two of us practically wrote the last Elision EP on our own. We always enjoyed creating cool sound together…..especially when cold beverages are involved! We just wanted to make music from our hearts (which is code for balls of course). Not that it wasn’t that way with Elision, but as crazy as we went there on the sound side, we also knew that we have to sort of work within the genre. Whatever that was, heh.

So we met, had some beers, started to track some riffs in garageband and put it together. All sorts of crazy stuff (what eventually became the song Saturday Destroyer btw). It wasn’t so much about forming a band as quick as possible. It was really about us, creating some cool tunes and have a good time while doing it. I mean we were definitely thinking about the whole band thing, but without the whole gigs-­labels-­promo-­studio-­merch-­press-­affair. The feeling of starting something new and from scratch was (at least to me) kinda scary in the beginning, but turned out to be quite the opposite. It felt exciting as hell,but we still had no clue what we actually want to do.

Then was the question about a singer. Do we need one? Who could it be? In Elision I did a lot of backup vocals and I actually started as a „singer“ way back in the good old classic hardcore times. I didn’t want to scream again, but I also knew that I’m definitely no Freddy Mercury. In end though I accepted the challenge and it took about a year to figure out what I could do with the vocals. I still have actually no clue, but at least I now know the sort of way I need to go and I’m just taking the path in front of me now.

Also the whole deal with playing an instrument and sing at the same time didn’t came natural to me. Some „Heys and Yeahs“ sure, but a whole song was a whole different thing. So while we figured that out, we continued to write songs and at some point, starting to look for a drummer, who could actually play all our crazy midi shit.

Luckily enough we found Tobi! He has also a very long background playing in bands and also has his own little recording studio. Apart from him being a wonderful dude and an awesome drummer, he’s also actually a badass guitar player. It was pretty much love on first sight and that’s how this whole monster was born.

Marco: Sven pretty much already said how it all happened. I just have to add that Tobi is also playing drums in an awesome band called HELLBOUND!

Q3 – How would yourselves describe your music as you have a lot of different sounds going on.

Sven: Heh, well…it’s always hard to find the right „drawer“ for a specific genre and to be honest, we’re not huge fans of being labeled this and that. It actually took us a long time to filter and find what we actually want to do…were we felt the most when we played it. Around 2,5 years to be honest. We started out with the idea of being a classic stoner band, but soon kinda got bored. It felt a bit like „more of the same“. So in the end, we just concentrated on what really felt right to us, disregarding any limits of defined genres. I think it’s obvious that we all love bands like Entombed, Black Sabbath, Mastodon, High on Fire or Red Fang. Bottom line is, we wanted to make music where it feels good to chuck a beer, have a good time and rock the fuck out!

Marco: it`s just a mix of different kinds of music that we all like. Could be a punksong tomorrow or a doom song the day after. Nobody knows what`s next. It’s always depending on how we feel or connect to music by the time when we write a song.

Q4 – Why did you choose the name Blacksmoker. Where did it come from

Marco: Sven and me wrote down a bunch of ideas for a bandname. I had that record called “ black smoker” from a german band called SYSTRAL. We both seemed to like it and made just one word out of it “BLACKSMOKER”.

Sven: We tried to kinda put a face to our music and a mean as fuck underwater vulcano seemed very appropriate. It’s also more of a character to us. We’ll play a lot more with that theme then future.

Q5 – You're new album – Origins -­‐ has been released. Can you tell us what the album is all about.

Sven: To me personally it’s our real first outing as a band. Although we’re a little bit over three years together now, this really is the first answer to the question that haunted us ever since we started the band: What is Blacksmoker? Hence the name: Origins. We played of course shows before as Blacksmoker, but it was only in the last year were we really felt like we fine-­‐tuned our „frequencies“ to a degree were we all three just have a huge smile in our faces when we play our stuff. Maybe I’m a bit old school in that regard, but I think you have to play your shit live on stage in order to really form a song. If it still kicks you in the balls after playing it a hundred times, then you are in a good place.

Q6 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for.

Sven: That’s a mixed bag to be honest. As I explained earlier, the hard part was our journey to find our „sound“ and create something with soul and balls. Due to time constraints and a lot of other „variables“ it took us a year to finish the record though. Something we really don’t want to do again, but in the end it was worth it I guess. I filed it under birth pangs.

Marco: The recording wasn’t that easy, `cause it took us forever to get it done. That is the disadvantage of doing everything D.I.Y. -­‐ nobody tells you where to stop. But in the end I think everybody is very happy with the result. Thanks to HOMBRE for the months of mixing btw.

Tobi: The writing wasn't that difficult, because we already had all songs 99% completed, before we started to record. The recordings took a long time because we had no pressure, no deadline and we recorded at the Blank Disc Studio, which belongs to me ;-­‐) So we wanted it to be perfect. Thanks to Hombre (mix) and Role (master) we got an awesome result!

Q7 – Which bands and artists influenced you all as musicians.

Sven: A lot of them. I think, when you’re a person who likes to be creative, everything that touches you leaves a little mark. In that department I’d say definitely GWAR, NEUROSIS, BOTCH and MASTODON on my part. I have this „rule“ that when music is able to reach me and makes me feel it… I like it. No matter where it comes from. When I throw together a playlist, there is a good chance to find Led Zeppelin next to Slayer or some good old southern soul followed by Cephalic Carnage, DIO and Dillinger Escape Plan.

Marco: For me it`s also no particular kind of of music that I prefer. I listen to a lot of punkrock, but grew up with Black Sabbath and Maiden. I also like a lot of stuff like Young Widows, Akimbo, Russian Circles, The Jesus Lizard and that kind of noisy stuff.

Tobi: Tobi: I started with some classic metal: Helloween, Running Wild and Iron Maiden. Later on it was a bit more chaoHc bands that gained my interest such as Morbid Angel, Emperor or Nasum. I'm also into bands like High On Fire, The Sword and Electric Wizard, but biggest impact on my drumming is Entombed, Kyuss and Black Sabbath.

Q8 – How did you all became involved with music.

Sven: My parents had a huge vinyl collection when I was a small kid. I had no clue what those „things“ were, but I was mesmerized by the beauty of those covers. I still remember this Boston record. It had a huge UFO on it and that’s pretty much how it started for me with finding a relationship to music. My first time on stage was with 15 and that’s also when the whole hardcore / punk scene grabbed me.

Marco: I just liked music in general. Grew up with the typical stuff in the 80s, but once I heard Sabbath, Maiden and Motörhead all the other stuff was gone. Years later I was watching a Santa Cruz Skateboard video with some friends that I was skating with. I heard Black Flag and Dinosaur jr., and that brought something completely new to my life.

Tobi: I started playing keyboard and took lessons for years, but I've been listening to Heavy Metal, so I wanted to play that kind of music! I quit playing the keys and made some money at a vacation job to get my first electrical guitar. From that point on I was lost.

Q9 – What is the song-­writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

Sven: That’s actually the coolest part about this band. We all write riffs or sketch up songs. Record stuff at home and share it, add stuff and play around with it. So when we enter the practice room together every week, everybody has a rough idea about what we’re going to work on. That’s also were we actually disassemble everything again and build it back together into something we all feel and like. The majority of riffs is definitely coming from Marco though. He’s a maniac!

Marco: Like Sven said, I am bringing most of the songs and riffs in the band, which doesn’t mean, that I Tell people what they have to play. I make suggestions of songs that could be made, what happens after, is completely in the collective hands of the band and doesn’t have to be like the version that I first recorded. That goes the same way with the songs of the other guys.

Q10 – How big of a help has BandCamp in promoting your music.

Sven: I think BandCamp is an awesome platform. We haven’t even started to send around promos to the media in order to get maybe some coverage, yet awesome mags like you guys found us and picked us up. It has never been so easy to get your music out there and around the globe. On the other hand it also makes it a lot harder to stand out in an avalanche of great or not so great music. So it’s kind of a curse and blessing at the same time. We are super happy though with the possibilities we have on BandCamp. We agreed from the start, that we’d like to give the digital version of the album out for free. Much to our surprise people left us some money anyways. That’s just great and also shows that there is still a lot of appreciation for the value of good music.

Marco: I think BandCamp is a real good thing. I`d rather give my music for free in in a good quality, before somebody is loading it up for free in a shitty quality. I have more satisfaction in 10 people listening to our stuff for free, than in 1 dude buying our record.

Tobi: I don't want to make money with my music -­ I want it to be heard! BandCamp helps to implement that.

Q11 – I have been asked by a few fans of the blog if the album will be released on physical format of any kind. If so can you please provide any details.

Sven: We do have a sweet collectors box made out of wood available. It comes with a sticker, patch, button…oh and even a CD! Available via BandCamp. We still have some left, so grab them while they are hot! It’s also very likely that we’re gonna have nice vinyl by the end of the year! We keep you posted!

Q12 – Germany is starting to provide the Sludge/Stoner Metal world with some great bands to check out. Bands such as yourselves, WALL, The Moth, Aleph Null, Amber, MANTAR, Orcus Chylde and Motherslug to name but a few. What is the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal Scene currently like in Germany. Do you perform regular gigs or do you have to travel further afield when performing live.

Sven: The scene is very healthy and pretty awesome to be honest. Especially when it comes to festivals and open airs. There are quite a lot of them in very nice locations, all sort of dedicated to that type of sound. Good thing is that they are not massively big, so every time it’s more like a family camping trip with a lot of awesome people. For now we kept our shows more or less in the bavarian area, but that was mostly due to the fact, that except for shirts we didn’t have anything to offer that actually has our music on. There is always a place for good music. I won’t lie, it’s never easy, but from my gut I’d say Germany is in pre2y solid shape when it comes to that scene.

Marco: We have a lot of great German sludge, doom, whatever bands. One of them is the just finalized OMEGA MASSIF, who are good friends of us and we also shared our rehearsal room together with for years. There`s a lot of great underground music in Germany. Metal or not.

Q13 -­ What is your musical set-­‐up when playing live or recording your music. Any hints and tips would you like to give to the budding musicians out there.

Sven: I play a Marshall VBA 400 with custom tubes, 8x10 Ampeg cabinet, Xotic BB Preamp and my trusty Fender Jazz bass. As for Tipps I would say no matter what you play, make sure you’re tight as a band. No matter how shitty the venue or your equipment is, if you’re tight, you’ll rock it.

Marco: I play a Blackstar and a Laney top, along with different guitars. The recordings were all done with some of Tobi`s Laneys and Oranges. The tone lies in your fingers, expensive amps don`t bring them.

Tobi: My preferred shells-­‐sizes are 24“ for Bassdrum, 13“ Tom, 16“ & 18“ Floortoms. The Snare I use is an old Pearl Free Floating 14“x8“ with a Brass Shell. My cymbals are a 15“ Hihat, 18“ & 20“ Crashes and a 24“ Ride.

Q14 – If you could change anything within the Hard Rock/Metal scene. What would it be and why.

Sven: I think compared to a lot of other scenes, the Hard Rock/Metal department is just doing fine. It still surprises me how open hearted the metal scene actually is. People come to shows for the music and not to compare their newest sneakers, haircuts or shitty kung fu moves. Evil lurks of course in every scene and most of the time when a lot of money is involved. Well, but that’s something we are not a part of -­‐ so I really can’t tell. ;)

Q15 – What is your favourite song off the album and why.

Sven: Dude, that’s like asking who’s your favorite child?! Really can’t tell. Every song has it’s own little story and iterations. I’m just super happy with every single one of them.

Q16 – What is your favourite format to listen to music. MP3/CD/Cassette/Vinyl and the reasons why.

Sven: I like vinyl a lot and just recently started to collect again. When it comes to listening to music I’m more practical since I like to have everything organized in one place, so when it comes to listening I’d say CD/MP3. Nothing under 320 kb though, cuz that’s just crap.

Tobi: The most music I listen to is in my car from CD's, because nothing else works in my car radio. I prefer vinyl though, because you must take some time and really listen to the music.

Q17 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band. What would it be.

Sven: I’d like to say this in the words of Clutch: if you’re gonna do it, do it live on stage or don’t do it at all!

Marco: Don`t listen to what people say. Play what you want. If you don`t have fun doing it, better go to the tennis court.

Tobi: Have fun making music and let it flow!

Q18 – What are your thoughts of the entire crowd-­‐funding scene. It seems to have it's defenders and people think it's a waste of Zme. Would yourselves ever participate in a crowd-­‐funding project.

Sven: The last crowd funded project that I saw was a bowl of potato salad, so you could say it got a little bit out of hand haha. I think there some projects were it really makes sense like for instance in the videogame industry, where it helps a lot of indy developers to get their baby out. When it comes to music I think it’s super tough to get money as an unknown artist for whatever and if you’re a known artist, well then I guess you’re not very much depended on crowd funded actions. I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time, but certainly nothing we would rely on for instance.

Q19 – The last thing before you go, Do you have anything else to say to your fans.

Marco: If you guys like what we do, get in contact with us! Download the album, book a show and have a fun night with us, supporting underground music. If we have time, we will be there to rock and have a drink with you. Thanks for having an interest in us!

Sven: Well, foremost I’d like to throw out a big THANKS for welcoming us with such open arms and hearts! It’s a pretty awesome feeling when other people seem to like the stuff we do, cuz we love it too! Hopefully you will hear a lot more from us in the future! Thanks again and spread the word! The mighty Blacksmoker is now unleashed….and thirsty! ;)

Tobi: Thanks for your support so far and stay tuned for some more BLACKSMOKER stuff!

Well guys thanks for doing this. All the best with the new album.

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Written by Steve Howe