Thursday 18 August 2016

INTERVIEW: "From the cradle to the grave": In Conversation with Maurice Eggenschwiler of Blues Funeral

By: Aaron Pickford

Blues Funeral, a proto doom band from Houston, formed in late 2014 and play a unique brand of 60’s and 70’s infused music with a metal twist. The band name, inspired by the 1969 Groundhogs cut, “Blues Obituary”, is an ode to many of the group's influences including classic bands like: Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Mountain, Black SabbathJimi Hendrix, Cream, 

Through many email exchanges over many weeks between myself and guitarist Maurice Eggenschwiler, his enthusiasm and passion for his band shown through, moreover his dedication to his craft and his unabashed determination to get his band heard is a measure of the DIY scene that has produced so many great bands over the years.  Maurice's commitment to encourage the scene to take notice certainly won me over and after recently being voted "album of the day" over at Roadburn.comI wouldn’t be at all surprised if the band scored a record deal before the end of the year, not to mention a bunch of new followers in the process.

So, today it is my pleasure to present a short interview with Maurice, not to mention a full stream of their superb debut album “The Search”.  Welcome to the procession.... Blues Funeral 

SL:  Can you give us a brief history of your playing career to date leading up to the formation of Blues Funeral and release of your current record?

Maurice Eggenschwiler: Absolutely.  3 quarters of Blues Funeral (Jan, Cory, and I) have played together for several years in another band called Sanctus Bellum.  In November of 2014, Sanctus Bellum went on hiatus for a period of time which allowed us to shift our attention and focus to Blues Funeral.  Cory knew Gabe from way back as they both went to Carnegie Mellon, and luckily was able to recruit him into the fold.  The idea was to form a band that would allow us to incorporate some musical influences that wouldn’t have been at home in Sanctus… but that are very much a part of the fabric of our musical being.  The prominent inclusion of the Hammond organ sound (which we achieve through the use of a Nord Electro 3) is probably the most important aspect of that thought process.  Blues Funeral is essentially the apex at which our metal influences and our deep love of the 60’s and 70’s converge. 

With Blues Funeral we’ve had the chance to share the stage with bands like: Venomous Maximus, Night Demon, Royal Thunder, Black Tusk, The Obsessed, Sierra, Karma To Burn, Helstar, Deadhorse, and Marty Friedman.  The year and a half that we’ve spent playing live shows has given us the opportunity to write and refine the 6 tracks that ended up on the record (as well as a few others that are already in the works). 

SL: What can you tell us about your debut record and where do you feel it sits within the context of the current doom scene?

Maurice Eggenschwiler: Having played together for more than 5 years, Jan, Cory, and I have developed a natural rhythm when it comes to song writing.  We’ve always been huge fans of harmony (both instrumental and vocal) and that plays a vital role in these songs.  The sound we were able to achieve on this record is the product of using more complex chord extensions with the instrumentation and then layering that over a rock solid rhythm section.  Gabe’s bass tone, which is nice and punchy in the mix adds another dimension to that.  Lyrically, the album deals with a range of topics that are both introspective as well as reflections on aspects of the human condition that we observe in the current state of our world.

In the context of the current doom scene, I think we bring something to the table that certainly sits well alongside many of the stalwarts in the scene because we share common influences.  Simply put… we all owe Black Sabbath (and several bands that came before them) a debt of gratitude for laying the foundation for this kind of music.  And if we’re being honest… the most direct line you could draw between Blues Funeral and the doom scene would use Candlemass as the connector haha.  Where Blues Funeral separates themselves from the pack, however, is with the aspects of our sound that owe more to jazz and prog.  This goes back to the comment about chord extensions.  To my knowledge there aren’t a lot of bands in the doom scene that play major 7 chords or minor 13 chords.  The organ sound is something else that I think creates a dynamic that connects us to bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Atomic Rooster, and Procol Harum that I’m sure resonate with fans of doom, but that aren’t inherently a part of the sound that’s most common to the scene.  The net effect is that I think we are able to give fans something that they’re used to sitting squarely next to something that’s maybe a little more of a surprise.

SL: How was the mood in the camp going into the recording of the record?

Maurice Eggenschwiler: Pure unbridled excitement!  For the last year and a half, we have been incredibly humbled by the positive response we’ve gotten to our music in our own local scene.  The biggest point of feedback that we’ve gotten at every show we’ve played is that people were clamoring for recorded music that they could take home and digest.  Some people might have rushed to get in the studio just to get something out, but we really wanted to take our time refining the songs so that what ended up on the record was pure meat, no filler.  We really think we got that.  It had a lot to do with focus and preparation.  We spent a lot of time before going into the studio on pre-production (this was a process that I think was a bit newer for us) to make a lot of decisions on the front end about tempo, layering, effects, and harmonies.  Before we even set foot in the studio, we had pages of notes for our sound engineer and we had strong ideas about the direction of every song.  With all of that front-end prep, the studio process was actually fairly relaxed and allowed us to spontaneously give rise to some new ideas in studio without pressure over time constraints. 

SL: Finally then, what can fans look forward to from you over the next 12 months? How is your schedule shaping up?

Maurice Eggenschwiler: Well our next show is slated for 9/3 at Rudyard’s British Pub in Houston alongside Destroyer of Light and Witchcryer.  We have some other events planned locally through the end of this year and beginning of next year.  We’re also working on arranging some newer songs that we’ll be unveiling at these shows over the course of the next few months.  From there, we’re really setting our sights towards some sort of a European festival.  It would be amazing to share the stage with some of the great bands that frequent the annual renditions of Desertfest, Roadburn, and Freak Valley.        

Band info: Facebook | Bandcamp