Thursday 16 November 2017

INTERVIEW: "If Carlsberg did dynamic power doom duos, Monte Luna would probably be the best in the world"

By: Aaron Pickford

As I am sure some avid followers of THE SLUDGELORD can attest too, it is our mission to present the very best heavy music the underground scene has to offer and recently I commissioned Andrei Moose from our Russian chapter to painstakingly sift through the very best albums released via bandcamp and compile the best into a chart.   For me and I am sure many of you agree, if you’re not at least attempting to release your music via this musical platform then you’re fucking up and you ain’t in the game.

Now hitting the no 1 spot back in October, were a band previously unknown to me, but holy shit does THE SLUDGELORD most sincerely approve? Hailing from Austin, Texas Monte Luna deliver towering molten riffs, bucketloads of groove and hypnotic vocals, in fact this two piece are so fucking awesome, their self titled debut album  is one of the most captivating and downright fucking monstrous records I have heard this year.  Clocking in a hefty 71 minutes, “Monte Luna” never suffers from lag, never repeats itself and just as Alice peered through the looking glass, you have no idea just what a fantastical journey is ahead of you when you press play.

Now despite releasing the album back in September, “Monte Luna’s” official album release is this Saturday November 18th, so with the band prepping for this show, I managed to hook with band members James Clarke (Guitar, Bass, Vocal) and Phil Hook (Drums, FX, Synth) to get the low down about the roots of the band, the recording of the new album and amongst other things how they managed to score one Chris Fielding, he of Conan to master their debut record.  So check it out below.  

Guys, welcome to THE SLUDGELORD, the new album rules, but before we get to that. Can you give us an insight into how you started playing music, leading up to the formation of Monte Luna?

James: I started playing music when I was around 18. For years up to then I had always enjoyed singing but playing had intimidated me. I tried drums when I was 11 and it was just too loud for my parent’s house so it deterred me. Eventually I started playing guitar because I really liked singing along with my friends who played music. My first band I was in was this terrible band I made with some friends in the Navy. We played a few shows in Virginia Beach and we sucked. After I got out of the Navy I went back up north and started a band called Chronoscope. That is where I really started to make some cool noise. I was much more serious about playing guitar and singing. I did that for about 3 years until I got a job in Buda Texas building Aquaponics systems and green houses. I really wanted to find an area that is accepting and much more into heavier music than the area I was in. Austin drew me in and I never looked back. Ha ha

I actually met Phil via craigslist. I posted an add asking for a drummer who was into Neurosis, the Melvins, Shrinebuilder and the likes and he was the first to respond! Who would have thought!

Phil: I taught myself to play drums in the early 90’s and was in a bunch of different bands in the Indianapolis metal scene.  Around 2009 I moved to Austin, TX and started doing a lot of drummer for hire work, recording and touring for many bands and artists. A couple years ago I was feeling burnt out and stagnant artistically and knew I had to play heavy music again. So I creeped craigslist looking for some people to jam with, typed “Neurosis” on the search and the rest is history. Haha!

For folks unfamiliar with your band, are there any bands on the scene past and present that you would use as a reference point to describe your band, and who or what continues to inspire you and push you to try new things?

James: For me I have always admired the work ethic of the Melvins. I look to them on how a band should perform and run a business. I have also learned a lot of band business knowledge from our friends in Destroyer of light. Both the Melvins and Destroyer of Light put on phenomenal shows, and to me, it is all about keeping your audience engaged and hungry. As far as sound I really don’t have a specific point to reference. I like Matt Pikes tone but I didn’t really mold my tone to anyone. I just tried things until I felt it filled enough room. I’m influenced in general by bands like Eyehategod, Neurosis, The Melvins, The Beatles, Funkadelic, Black Sabbath and Rob Crow.

As far as who inspires us to try new things. I would say most of my peers in Austin and San Antonio. I love the bands we are playing with and coming up with and I could not be more thankful! Cursus for sure! And our friends in Spain, Ground.

Phil: My music influences are all over the place… I pull from Godflesh to Howlin Wolf to Sade. The whole creative process is what pushes me to try new things for sure. When I composed the instrumental segways at the end of “6000 Year March” and “Inverted Mountain”, I sampled multiple records on my turntables, added drones and synths.

What can you tell us about your new record “Monte Luna” and where do you feel it sits within the context of current metal scene?

James: The concept of the album revolves around a story I created based on this crazy universe that is loosely inspired by things such as H.P. Lovecraft, Bloodborne/Dark Souls, Kingdom Death Monster, Berserk, The Thing and Dungeons and Dragons (which I love by the way! I dungeon master! I’m a huge nerd).

 Let me just pull an excerpt from my lore here “Long ago in a distant time, unnatural pestilence consumed a world of peace. Father Arbitor has called upon the forces of the old ones to set this tranquil land a flame. After the burning of Elohim, a once great and powerful city, the people of the Nameless City are called upon as the only warriors brave enough to face Father Arbitor’s hellish army. Through their journey the warriors of the Nameless City will face perils the likes they have never seen. A 6000 year march across arid, decaying, plague lands. Climbing the impossible, the Inverted Mountain, reaching the Nightmare Frontier and facing the end. The orb of power glowing green with madness. What will end the cycle? Is the orb the true evil? Or does evil lie within?”. And yes the “Hound” EP does tie into the full length.

It sets in motion the events as the hooded warriors kill father Arbitors faithful dog, thus starting the war leading up to the burning of Elohim. For those wondering, yes we sampled Bloodborne on 6,000 year march! I love that game!! Where does it sit? To be honest I don’t know, we aren’t really trying to be just one genre. We both love so much music we couldn’t say, but it’s certainly heavy meditative music. We want you to turn it up, smoke it up and feel the sound. Like you would live.

Does anything spring to mind when you think about the completion of your new record and how is the mood in the camp at present?

James: I think I’m just glad to be done with it and I am ready to move forward as a band. The concept of the album was a long and difficult process. We tried to capture as much live magic as possible on the recording because we feel that to experience us fully is to see us live. For the mood band wise I know I’m loving it. We just played some awesome shows in Indianapolis and I got to meet some of the guys in Coffinworm and Gates of Slumber so that was an awesome fan boy moment!!

We have received a lot of positive feedback for our album and we beyond humbled at the reception. I think that Austin has a phenomenal group of musicians that I am proud to call my brothers and sisters. We are all doing so much right now and trying to grow this into something for all of us. It just takes time, but it is a wonderful time to be playing heavy music in ATX and the surrounding area. The Lost Well is our home away from home and we are thankful for it.

Phil: We’ve always respected what each of us brings to the table as artists and humans and I don’t see that changing anytime soon….no matter what life shit happens.

What stands out as your overarching memory from the recording sessions?

James: I think what stands out most for me was how amazing the environment was. We recorded at Tommy Munter’s studio in San Antonio (Matador studios). He is a good friend of Phils and an excellent musician. We did 3 days in the studio and crushed it. I think the moment I knew we were doing something right was that within the first day, at like 6 p.m. the cops came and told us we had to turn down. I almost lost my shit! I couldn’t believe it was really happening, and it just happened to be the night of a crazy storm. My mind was racing and I was thinking well that’s that, were screwed. But the next day we woke up early, moved the bass cab into the bathroom and ripped that puppy a new one.

We recorded all the instrumentation in about a day and a half. Also, what really stood out was how receptive Chris Fielding was to mastering the album! And for him to say he loves the vocals made me swoon! Haha! I run a Matamp GT2 into a Worshiper 4x12 and ABY it with a GK 1001 RB into a Worshiper 2x15. I was happy to lay that down as we would live. Phil and I were able to be in the same room while recording so it allowed us to capture the energy we have. We did very little overdubbing.

Phil: The album opener, “Burning of Elohim” had a pretty cool moment in the studio. James and I tracked the album in the room together as we would for our live show and I have a pretty big drum configuration…Ludwig maples, 26 inch kick, 14, 16, 18 toms and a 14x8 steel snare. On the opening tom pattern I’m just beating the living shit out of my floor toms and the air pushing off the drums carried into James guitar pick-ups and created this cool guitar part. We didn’t even realize what happened until playback and James was like, “what the hell guitar part is that”? Of course we kept that magic on the album!

With you new record in the bag, how is your schedule shaping up over the next 12 months?

James: We are planning a 2 week, potentially 3 week tour in April/may (East Coast) and a smaller run with some friends overseas (They want to come here though, we will be in EU asap!) We are going to book a week for the studio this time and that should be right after we come off our 2 week tour. We want the album to really crush, keep some elements of what makes us Monte Luna but always evolve the sound forward and have fun with it! If we aren’t having fun we aren’t a band. We played a great show with Omotai and it felt great to be back home! We hadn’t played TX since June. Our album release shows are coming up on Saturday and we are doing a few dates in December with our friends in Forming the Void!

This year is going to wrap up nicely into a hectic but fun new year. Lets get to Europe sooner rather than later shall we?

Finally, do you have any last words?

James: I’d just like to say that we aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. More so, trying to invent an interdimensional space ship.

Phil: I’m going to borrow a quote from my friend Karl Simon (Wretch, Gates of Slumber)…the music’s not too slow, you’re listening too fast. 

The End

Band info: bandcamp || facebook