Wednesday, 8 March 2017

“Warmth of a slo burning flame”: In Conversation with Chris Hale (Slo Burn)

By: Marc Gaffney & Chris Hale

Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to discuss feel. Feel is the word is the word that you heard, it’s got groove it’s got the real thing.The essence of any music, especially the man I was lucky enough to converse with, is the way you nod your head when you hear that first chord or that ethereal chorus that grabs you like a mother bear from the Revenant and keeps you in check while your auditory system finds an elite place to plateau.
The actual 2 and 4 on the floor is what I am talking about. Locking of guitars with a tight rhythm section, letting you air out after that nice head space of the burn down period, eloquent and decisive, keeping a collective mind and body, becoming one, hence the music is your Sherpa, driver of your emotional and being of substance.
It is the few that can harness the kinetic energy from exploding and slowly funneling itself through you like a 12 year old Scotch, like Robert Redford would dig on.Why Robert Redford, because the guitar player behind this Slo Burn is Chris Hale, one of the coolest mother fuckers to slap on a Gibson and let you dig in on the journey that he and his brothers collectively drive the train to eternal synthesis and yes, FEEL.

So please sit back and enjoy my chat, and you will be dammed, if you’re lucky.

Sludgelord: Thanks Chris for taking the time to speak with me.
Chris: Thank you
Sludgelord: So how did the Slo Burn get together happen?
Chris: John had invited us out to the desert to work on some original ideas he had for his solo record. He had an idea that it would be cool to have a track with some of the Slo Burn guys on it. So we went down and it was really fun, was great to be back in a room together and just hang out and make some music and that was it for a while. So we went out had some Magarita’s and some more fun and Damon laid down some bass on his record and we just started talking more and more that we should do this and then somebody threw out, 2017 is going to be 20 years so we said let’s start to do something then. So we got a booking agent involved and it just kind of happened.

Sludgelord: From being so young when the band started to now, do you feel as if you and the band are playing better?
Chris- It is night and day, I was a 19 year old kid, Brady was 18, Damon was 19, we all have had 20 plus years, just the couple of rehearsals we have had and at the first rehearsal, Brady and I just stopped and starting laughing as it was so much better than it ever was that we were just laughing. Holy shit, It is funny to hear, people saying Slo Burn was so great and for us, being the musicians playing it, I mean I guess it is like a child actor that gets to go back and watch a show they were in and it is so much better now, it feels right now, vision is easier made now then back to then.
Sludgelord: Your thoughts are a bit clearer now?
Chris- Yes, I mean the thought process now is easier to execute the process. When you are a kid, 19, 20 years old you would say that will do, now you know what you are doing and you can actually do it. Let’s make it better. I’ll be honest some of these songs I have not played in a long time, so when it came time to play them and re-learn them, I have a box of old Slo Burn videos, and I have to be honest, I was fucking embarrassed. I was saying I can’t watch this. I would say to Brady you were great and John has always been bad ass but watching myself, I was like “fuck, I can’t watch this”.

Sludgelord:  Good thing is when you can really understand and admit that. No falsifying in your head.
Chris: It would be terrible if you were watching back and were like, Dam I used to be so good. I wish I could play like that again.
Sludgelord: If I thought that way, I would say fuck it, time to buy an accordion.
Chris:  Yeah, I think like that, sorry guys this reunion isn’t happening anymore.
Sludgelord: Would you become a baseball pitcher?
Chris:  Yes.
Sludgelord: It is the 4 original guys, first show is Desertfest?
Chris:  Yes, so originally we were just going to do some shows in June.  We went into this, and we were not like, let’s get back and do a fucking world tour. Another record. We were all like, hey, we are all busy with other stuff. Damon and I have Brave Black Sea. The most important thing was, Slo Burn, we are not a pop band, we didn’t look at it as we are going to do a tour and be set for life. We are doing this because we wanted to do it. There are so many Slo Burn that never got a chance to see us play, maybe discovered the band, 5 or 10 years ago, so we are doing it for that. It was never about this is going to get us rich. Fuck that, it might help pay my gas bill. That’s about it.
But you know the goal was let’s do a few shows and see how it feels. If we are all having a blast then let’s talk more and see what else we can do, The response was kind of overwhelming for us and then we got offered to do Desertfest in April and we were like, fuck let’s do that. So now we are doing that in April and these other shows in June and then the Psycho Vegas in August came up and they wanted to do an exclusive thing with us as where it our only US show in 2017. You know, it felt right at the time and if we are going to do that then what better place to do than Vegas. If we were gonna do it in Mobile Alabama I don’t know how many people would want to come and see us. Nothing against Mobile but it is not a destination place. So we are gonna see, so far we are getting along great and it is sounding better than ever. Who knows what the future holds. I have a hard time imagining we are gonna do this and go, that was fun, see you guys.  I don’t see us getting fully back together as the main thing but I also don’t see us saying that was fun and never doing it again
Sludgelord: Psycho Vegas is so much fun.
Chris: I live in Vegas and I was sick during that time and I was so bummed because I couldn’t go. I had buddies showing up and playing and also my kids were sick so I didn’t even end up going. I am really  stoked to be playing this year.
Sludgelord: It is amazing the people that come. It solidifies why bands do it.
Chris: Right on, you know living in Vegas you know it is like Mariah Carey and fucking Elton John, and to have this stoner doom metal fest come and do so well that the immediately want to do one next year, it is awesome to see and hear that. You wanna be a part of it
Sludgelord:  So you have this going on, what are you playing now? I know you are a Les Paul guy but really there is never enough gear.
Chris:  I know. So I have been going back and forth thinking should I  use different gear for Slo Burn than I do with Brave Black Sea. Different sound, it is a one guitar band, a simplified heavy sound. I worked very hard and long for that sound that I said I might as well use it and tweak it. I am using a different guitar, I am using, what I was using, funny story, for Brave Black Sea I have 2 Marshall 4-12 cabs, one with Vintage 30’s and one with Greenbacks in it. Then one was powered by a 1978 Marshall JMP, and one with an Ampeg V2, 1976. I found this amp just sitting on the floor out here in Vegas. I always go to the same place and I was like, what is up with this and he said, it is one of the best sounding amps u will hear in your life that no one wants to buy because it looks like an old bass amp or something. So I wanted to try it out, took it to a practice and was fucking blown away. So I bought it and then the first Slo Burn rehearsal it blew up.
Sludgelord: Oh Fuck
Chris: Now for Slo Burn going with 2 JMP heads and 2 cabs.   Brave Black Sea I usually use old Les Pauls and in Slo Burn I am going with my SG. It is not much of a change but it is enough of a different feel and sound I guess. I get all my dirt sounds from pedals. Between different overdrives and fuzz pedals.


Sludgelord:  Are there certain pedals that u love?
Chris: Yea, as far as overdrive pedals, I love the Fulltone OCD pedal, it is just a fucking killer sound, it is very honest and you can get it to sound really heavy. I love the Earthquake Device pedals for fuzz and I sometimes use the V Vex Wooly Mammoth, it is a bass fuzz and it’s fucking pummeling. I usually put all those pedals through a G Vex which may or may not have had something to do with blowing up my Ampeg. I don’t know if you have ever played one but they are crazy, the super hard ons are super hard on your tubes, that’s for sure. Then I will use different delays and wah’s but the pedal board for Brave Black Sea is much bigger than for Slo Burn. When you have just a guitar and bass player, you can’t go off too much whereas Brave Black Sea you can go off a little more, psychedelic, just a different thing.
Sludgelord: Playing wise, do you play everyday?
Chris: Everyday. You know right after Slo Burn I got into Another band and we were together for like 3-4 years and then after that into another band for like 3-4 years and after that I had a bad taste in my mouth for the music industry and I took about year, year and a half off where I was like, fuck this and I felt a huge void in me so ever since then whether I was going to be in a band or not I was always going to play guitar.
To this day now, I have days where I will work on music, I have a studio in my house and somedays I will be in there for 6-7 hours and the next day could be 20 minutes. It has to be at least that 20 or 30 minutes, it is funny as my wife and I joke about it. I will be in a crappy mood and she will say to go in my studio and play guitar because you need to get yourself straight. If I don’t get some kind of playing out or a song that is in my head, if I don’t play then I feel different. I will be in an irritable mood and it is something I have to do.
With that being said, I don’t sit and practice scales for hours upon hours. I am not a shredder and it has never been my thing. If someone puts on a Dream Theater cd and says jam along with this, I can’t. I love to jam, I like to jam old blues, I always have to be playing. How about yourself, are u the same way?
Sludgelord: I find it is therapeutic.
Chris:  It is, that’s the word I was looking for.
Sludgelord: If I am a little bit off, even playing for 10 minutes, it helps put things in perspective, my hands still work and I can still play so it does help and things aren’t that bad after playing. I am not someone that would sit down and listen to Rising Force and let me match what Yngwie is doing. It is great guys can shred but that has never been my thing.
Chris:  Exactly, It has never been about a solo or lead work for me, it is about the vibe and journey of the song. Never my spot to shine or show all my years of practicing and I have never tried to play like that. If I really dedicated myself to that then maybe, but it has never been my thing.
Sludgelord:  Yea I am into the groove of the song, it has to fit or I’m not feeling it at all.
Chris:  Totally, you know I love to throw on a delay or something, it is really about changing up the sound or vibe of it. Never about, hold on here it is (making a solo sound).
Sludgelord:  Here it is, 2 minutes and 42 seconds
Chris:  Look how fast I can play this scale.
Sludgelord: That’s great, the whole wanker thing is a bit much for me.
Chris:  I remember there was this period as I was living out in Hollywood for a while after Slo Burn and I guess there was this time after Korn and all of that but every member of the band had to showcase their individual playing abilities. It was like watching the drummer play a 30 minute drum solo, bass player 30 minute solo, guitar player a solo or an effects solo. The songs weren’t there anymore. Nobody was writing songs.  Check out our abilities. I would much rather watch someone like Bill Ward or John Bonham, they are playing these beats and it is like the one fill comes along and holy fuck that was amazing. They don’t need to do a ton of stuff you know, they do what benefits the song.

Sludgelord: Right on. In terms of listening to music, do you like pretty much everything?
Chris:  Kind of, I guess. Mostly I am guilty of just listening to older stuff as it’s hard for me, a lot of the newer stuff that comes out now feels like people are writing strictly to be on the radio and I’m not going to be someone that hates on that. I get it, if people are making a career out of it by playing music then fuck man, do your thing. It is not something that I can get into. I am not gonna lie, I have some guilty pleasures. I am not going to buy a CD but if I hear it I will secretly get into it. I’m not gonna be yelling, turn this fucking shit off. I listen to a lot of old blues stuff you know Lightning Hopkins, Jr Kimbrough that type of stuff, Zeppelin, Sabbath, ZZ Top, I love that type of stuff and I still love bands like Fu Manchu, trying to think of newer stuff I listen too.
Whenever I am writing I don’t let myself listen to anything for fear of it creeping in, we have been writing a new Brave Black Sea album so I am in writing mode so I have not allowed myself to listen to anything that is around now. I guess it sounds boring that I don’t listen to anything, ha. But I do, I love The Black Keys, not so much their newer stuff but older. When it was just 2 dudes, bad ass. It reminded me of old desert bands. Like if someone would have told me that this record is from 2 guys from Palm Desert in 1992 I would have totally believed it. That kind of stuff and more recently, I like a lot of singer songwriter type of stuff. Like Rocky Bottalado, it’s very honest and cool.
Sludgelord: I find to not listen to all kinds of music you are doing yourself a disservice.
Chris: Totally, and on the other hand I will throw on old soul albums or Hank Williams. It is just good stuff. I feel in a weird sort of way that I will allow that sort of music to influence me. There is no way you are going to listen to a Slo Burn song or a Brave Black Sea song and say, he is ripping off Otis Redding. It is not gonna happen, when you put the vibe of that in and layer it with heavy drums and heavy guitars, it gives it this non-intentional thing.
Sludgelord: I love that, makes it sound great. I think that is the best stuff. It makes it easier for white people to find the one they can clap their hands to it.
Chris:  It is so try, I guess that is a good way to put it. (Both of us are laughing and have been laughing).
Sludgelord: When I write I want stuff like Joni Mitchell or CSNY. Stuff with feeling.
Chris: Totally, great harmonies and melodies and really dynamic. When I was younger I always thought 3 or 4 guys is all you need. Now I really respect bands with 9 guys. Keys and percussion. To make it all sound great is such a cool thing.
Sludgelord: I remember the first time I saw Chicago, I was like Holy Shit, it was so heavy. A great Rock n Roll band with horns.
Chris:  Definitely. It is almost sad when you see people shut it down because it is Chicago. If you give that shit a chance you will be blown away. Some people take my wife, not really into a lot of the radio acts, Linkin Park for example, we shared management and rehearsed next door, they were playing a show in Vegas and I told her, just see the difference between an arena show and in a small venue. She went and after she was blown away. The production and Chester’s voice were amazing. She wasn’t converted or will be buying the cd but it was a breath of fresh air to see something like that. It is cool to see full bands and then you see ZZ Top which is on the opposite end of the spectrum and it is just 3 older dudes up there and they just fucking kill it. You go from being blown away, saying we need a 7 piece band and horns and then 3 guys killing it, Billy Gibbons is like, fuck you, amazing.
Sludgelord: As soon as he breaks into “Just Got Paid”, you are like. Ok I guess we only need 3 dudes.
Chris:  One of my favorite riffs of all time. Billy Gibbons tone man, people would say its tons and tons of fuzz pedals, and then he comes out and it’s the cleanest tone but so heavy, in a different way and then the groove those guys get, fuck. It is unreal.
Sludgelord:  So you have Slo Burn being lit up again, after many years and it sounds better than ever. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time and speaking to me as it has been a true honor brother.
Chris:  This was amazing talking and thank you. As I said, who knows what will be in store for Slo Burn, but we are writing new songs and will be definitely playing 2 new ones at these shows so I can’t wait.
Sludgelord: So you better get on the treadmill in 2017.
Chris: Yes, I’m looking to forward to it.
What you have read folks was glittered with Class. Chris Hale, ladies and gentleman is a player’s player. He outs the song first and let’s his groove flag fly, ya heard.
Being able to converse with a player as such for a guy like me is pure pleasure. This was one of those times when the people you revere and in actuality hipper than you could ever imagine
The thing that gets lost on many neophytes of the rock is that without pioneers such as Mr. Hale, there would be no Psycho Vegas or Desertfest. For that I am thankful and really excited for what is to come from Slo Burn and their volume of goods to follow.
Remember, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds blow
Eat a peach, Gaff the Rulah.
The End

Band info: facebook