HEADLINES

Devilneck Metal Fest 2010: The Interviews

Devilneck Music Festival, the premier underground metal fest in Georgia, returned this year to The Caledonia Lounge in Athens and featured some of the best local and regional sludge, doom, crust and noise metal bands around.

TST’s Brad Olsen sat down with members of Marriage, Stone Mountain Freeway, Wizard Smoke, Shark Heart, and Colossus  to discuss the bands albums, touring, and musical visions.

Day 1:

Marriage

Marriage is a progressive metal band from Athens Georgia. They play music in the vein of Baroness with yelled vocals over spacey guitar chord’s. Their performance on the first day of the fest was a definite highlight. The quality of their music and the quality of their onstage performance matched nicely thanks in large part to frontman Josh’s commanding stage presence. Their at times jazzy metal sound was filled with Metallica-esque riffs, harmonized leads, and experimental breaks.

After the performance, I sat down with Josh to ask him some questions:

TST: It’s good to meet you Josh, you put on a great performance tonight. When did you guys start playing together?

Josh: Thanks bro. Me and Brent started as a 2-piece in ’04 after I moved here from Mississippi about six years ago. We played mostly acoustic stuff when Ted joined, but we recently added Bryan Aiken [of ‘Powers and Lazer/Wulf] who has brought a lot more progressive vibe to the group.

TST: Your sound is very reminiscent of the big bands of the current Prog Metal movement like Mastodon and Baroness, have they influenced your music at all?

Josh: Yeah. Actually, when I lived in Mississippi we played a few shows opening for Mastodon. We’d go out to eat afterwards. They are very down-to-earth guys. This was about the time that Remission came out, and I’ve always been more a fan of their earlier, heavier stuff.

TST: What are some of your other influences?

Josh: Metallica and definitely the Melvins.

TST: What about lyrics? I heard you scream “Land, beast, food” about four times during one of the songs you played.

Josh: [Laughs] Yeah, we’re actually a Christian band. That song is about the creation of the Earth. We’re working on a whole concept album right now about the story of creation.

TST: Wow, I had no idea you were a Christian band. Your sound is so heavy and menacing. Any other projects in the works for you guys?

Josh: Yeah, we are working on re-recording an acoustic album we did a couple of years ago. We should hopefully have that out real soon.

TST: What can you tell me about the concept album?

Josh: It’s not totally written yet, but we have about four songs, which we played tonight. They are all untitled except for one: “Tenement.”

TST: Why the band name “Marriage”?

Josh: “Marriage” doesn’t connote any specific genre, so we are free to move wherever we want musically and still play under the same name. Also, in a way a band is a marriage, and yet it is not. People come and go, so the name is sort of ironic.

Day 2:

Stone Mountain Freeway

Stone Mountain Freeway, an Atlanta based Southern Metal band in the vein of Pantera or Eye Hate God, played on the second day of the fest. I sat down with drummer Joey Robertson, bassist Zack Brembee, and guitarist’s Brad Kemp and Miles Griffin. Dave Slocum was absent due to being passed out in their van [Stone Mountain had just played at the Atlanta Motor Speedway the day prior and had driven overnight to Athens].

Stone Mountain Freeway’s performance was high energy and definitely an early stand out. Lead singer Dave Slocum’s Anselmo-esque screams mixed with the “Synyrd on drugs” riffs to create a truly unique sound. Their performance of Lynyrd Synyrd’s “Cry For The Badman” was especially good. At around the third or fourth chorus of the song Dave jumped from the stage and shared the mic with members of the audience.

TST: Hey guys, it’s nice to meet you. Let’s get started. Who are some of your biggest influences?

Joey Robertson: Well John Bonham has always been a huge influence on me. Led Zeppelin was one of the first bands to influence me as a musician. We’ve all got a lot of different influences, though. We’re influenced by Black Flag, and some of us have come from punk or thrash backgrounds.

Brad Kemp: Sabbath has also been a huge influence.

TST: So what is the main focus of your music?

Joey Robertson: All of Zack and Dave’s lyrics are written from the 1st person. Our songs are about tragedy, lust, and speed. We wanna play songs about going fast, women, guns, and alcohol.

Brad Kemp: The stuff we care about.

[Laughs]

TST: You mentioned Sabbath as an influence. Do you play into their evil mentality at all?

Brad Kemp: Yeah. This shit is Redneck Satanism man. It ain’t about Jesus at all, that’s for sure.

TST: You guys have been together since February, forming out of the remnants of Red River Revival. Do you have any music ready for an EP yet?

Joey Robertson: Yeah, we’ve got six songs recorded right now for an EP. We’re hoping to have it released sometime in early 2011. It’s hard though, you know, because me and Brad work as engineers as our day job, so we can’t just go into the studio for a month or go on tour any time we want.

TST: How do you guys write your songs?

Joey Robertson: Usually Brad writes the riffs and brings them to us during practice. We jam on them and, eventually, they evolve into full songs.

TST: What’s your musical philosophy?

Joey Robertson: Less is more, always. I take a lot of inspiration from Phil Rudd [of AC/DC]. The guy doesn’t do any fancy fills or anything. He just holds down that steady beat and drives the songs. I used to try a lot more experimental stuff when we first started, but it just didn’t work. I had to trim down my playing and just do what was necessary. When we went into the studio to record, the guy mixing said “There’s no Tom’s on anything!” I said “Yeah. I know.”

Brad Kemp: We just want to stay faithful to our influences and write good songs. The songs we listen to are simple, and so that’s what comes out.

TST: Thanks for sitting down with me guys. What’s the setlist going to look like tonight?

Brad Kemp: “Hammer Down Driver,” “Boogie Machine,” “Dark Daze,” “Ain’t Slowing Down,” “Born On Go,” “Kings,” “Into The Night,” and “Cry For The Badman” [Lynyrd Skynyrd cover].

Wizard Smoke

The Atlanta based Doom band Wizard Smoke played at around 7:30 on the second day. The band is comprised of ex-members of Maserati, Dust Rabbit, and Cassavettes. Their sound was slow and crushing (like the majority of Doom bands that night). Lead singer James Halcrow’s imposing, Ozzy-like, appearance on stage complimented the music well. He screamed his vocals into the mic like a mad man for their entire three song set (three long songs, mind you).

Prior to their performance, I had a chance to sit down with James for a one-on-one interview.

Brad: James, it’s great to see you guys here at Devilneck this year, probably one of the best Metal fests in the South East. How long have you guys played together?

James: We’ve been together for about a year and a half now.

TST: You’ve released one album already, Live Rock From Hell, do you have any new music in the works?

James: Yeah. We write all the time and we hope to have our next album, The Speed of Smoke, out soon.

TST: So I assume you guys are heavily influenced by Black Sabbath. Which Sabbath album influences you the most, and do you have any non-music influences like movies or books?

James: Sabbath is a huge influence on us. Master of Reality has probably been the most influential album for me. I love Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, and Sesperia, an Italian Horror movie, too.

TST: What about vocally, who has inspired your style?

James: Even though we play Doom, I actually take a lot of my style from European Black Metal bands like At The Gates.

TST: And the lyrics?

James: Mostly stuff about Satan, evil, black-magic, or sometimes nothing at all. I usually write my lyrics based on whatever sounds best. I sound out the vowels, and then add words that match up later.

Shark Heart

Shark Heart are an Athens progressive Death Metal band consisting of guitarists Adam “Tater” Bugbee, Jason Askew, and drummer-vocalist Matt Riley. Their sound is typically characterized by extremely fast, technical lead playing. However they take to time to relish in heavy riffing, when needed.

I had not previously heard of Shark Heart, but was excited to meet them after their intense performance. We sat down outside The Caledonia’s main hall on a little ledge next to the gate for an interview.

TST: Hey guys, it’s great to meet you. I was really impressed with your music tonight. How long have you guys played together?

Matt: Thanks man, we’ve been playing together since middle school, so about 12 or 15 years.

Brad Olsen: Wow, that’s a really long time. Has it always been the three of you? Ever a bassist or dedicated vocalist?

Jason: I mean we’ve had bassists who could play our stuff, but it always just felt better as a three-piece.

Matt: Yeah, and I just started screaming out of necessity, really.

TST: Your songs seem incredibly complex, how do you usually write?

Jason: Tater writes most of the riffs. It takes us a long ass time to finish songs ‘cause were such perfectionists. It’s probably why we don’t have any recorded stuff out yet. Most of our songs have evolved over months if not years, and they’re still evolving.

TST: Your songs are very intricate, and dark, yet, at times, you interject these little harmonies which add an occasional airy quality to your sound. So do you each consider yourselves lead guitarists?

Jason: I really consider myself more of a rhythm guitarist, even though we do a lot of speedy harmonies and exchange lead. Tater does most of the soloing.

TST: [to Tater] What about the lyrics, what inspires you?

Tater: [Laughs] Most of my lyrics are about hate, drugs, drinking, fucking. Shit like that.

[Shark Heart have released no music yet, however, they should be petitioned to do so. Their sound was one of the tightest and most intriguing, musically. Their harmonies and riffs were incredibly creative and crafted with the skill’s of master musicians. Despite mediocre lyrics, their sound is heavy enough to make any metalhead want to hear them play.]

Colossus

Home-Based in Raleigh, NC, the throwback band Colossus is known for their catchy melodies, infectious guitar lines, and exciting stage play from their lead guitarists. Living up to this reputation, their performance on the second day of Devilneck was nothing short of awesome. Their sound was like the steak-knife which cut through the mass of doomy meat which had preceded them. Don’t get me wrong, I love Doom, especially live, but after five hours straight, Colossus was a breath of fresh air.

I was fortunate to catch up with the band prior to their performance with the sole absentee being one of the three guitar players [He was unable to make the Devilneck performance, so the band performed as a five-piece].

TST: It’s great to meet you guys. I’ve read a lot about you and love your sound. How long have you guys played together?

Rye: Well we’ve been together in some shape for around five years. Andy joined in 2007, and we just started playing with Doza [drums] this year.

TST: It doesn’t take much listening into your music to hear that there is a definite Iron Maiden influence.

Andy: Totally man, Iron Maiden is a huge influence on our sound. During our last tour we actually got to see them front row on their Somewhere Back In Time tour.

[…Conversation briefly side tracks into Maiden geekdom…]

TST: Are there any movies and books that have inspired your music?

Andy: Tons. Behind every song is a story we’ve borrowed from somewhere. Whether it be a book that one of us is reading, or a movie, or a game. Just whatever interests us makes its way into our music.

Rye: We watch movies when we practice, so we’ve always got ideas coming. We watched the Discovery channel show Planet Earth and saw this scene where a blue whales body had sunk to the bottom of the ocean and the narrator said “And a year later there is still meat left in the skull.” That’s just heavy dude! It eventually became the title of one of our songs off the Drunk On Blood EP.

TST: Wow, that’s really cool. Any other stuff inspire songs?

Andy: Yeah, we have a song on our first album called “Willow” which is based on the movie Willow with Val Kilmer. We’ve also got a new song based on The Secret of Nim [A Disney movie from the 80’s] called “Three Feet Below.”

TST: So you have new material for an album then?

Andy: Sort of. Our first album, …And The Rift of The Pandimensional Under-gods, was just officially released this year. We also just released our EP, Drunk On Blood this year. Two of our newer songs which might find their way onto the next LP are “Jihad, Jihad,” and “Stoneburner.” “Jihad, Jihad” is based on Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Rye: We’ve actually considered doing an entire Dune concept album.

Colossus: [Laughs] [collective agreement]

[Interview collapses into banter about Dune amongst the band as Andy begins explaining to me some critical Dune-lore… Did I mention these guys were awesome?]

TST: I’d heard you guys play here at The Caledonia a lot.

Rye: Yeah Bryant [Caledonia’s owner] has been real cool to us ever since we started. We actually came here on our first tour.

[Later, during their performance, lead singer Sean Buchannan jokingly introduced “Jihad, Jihad” by saying “This is from our upcoming Dune concept album.” To which the audience was somewhat silent and Andy yelled into the mic, “Because Dune is awesome!” – Does it really get any more metal than that?]


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