Melding big riffs, discordant rhythms and romance, Raketkanon are probably not the sound you'd expect to come out of Belgium. I chat to, guitarist, Jef Verbeeck to see what makes them tick.
Belgium, the name of the country evokes images of moustachioed detectives, The EU, and Tintin. What doesn't pop into your head is a hyper-kinetic band pushing the boundaries of what rock music is in the 21st century. That, however, is exactly what Raketkanon are and coming out of the Northern city of Ghent they're here to blast your ears with a groove that is loud, occasionally brutal, but also a little bit sexy.
I may be stating the obvious, but rock music has long history of exciting bands popping up in places that the media isn't necessarily focusing on. Think The Melvins coming out of Washington State (pre-Nirvana) in the US, or Refused coming from the frozen North of Umeå in Sweden. Both bands roared out of where was considered geographic obscurity and made the world pay attention. A similar outsider sensibility permeates the music of Raketkanon.
Me trying to describe the band's music would be difficult, if not completely pointless. But the feel of the band is obvious from the get go. The bands own brand of sturm und drang deals in emotions, albeit the heavy kind. In each mind crushing riff, in every pummelling beat, in every howled (occasionally wordless) vocal is pure catharsis. Forgive me for using a cliché, but they paint portraits with their music, and those portraits are warts and all.
I spoke to Guitarist Jef Verbeeck to get the band's story, after I show off a bit of my cultural ignorance that is...
"Let's start from the top, your name means Rocket Cannon in Dutch, but you're from Belgium, what's with that?"
Jef Verbeeck: Dutch is one of the three official languages in Belgium...
"Belgian bands don't get heard of in the UK very often, can you tell us a little bit what the scene's like there?"
JV: There's a lot of music going on in Belgium. Antwerp, Hasselt, Ghent (where we are from) and a lot more cities have quite some cool local things going on. We have some amazing bands here. Also some shit ones of course. If you're looking for good Belgian bands, check out Onmens, Stadt, Toman, Kapitan Korsakov, The Germans, Madensuyu, Hypochristmutreefuzz...
"I can't really imagine any scene where Raketkanon are an easy fit, can you tell us how the four of you came together to make this indescribable (in a good way) music?"
JV: We just let our hearts speak. Without wanting to sound like it all happens completely effortlessly - because, make no mistake, we work hard on what we do - we just do what we feel like doing. And even though we all have strong opinions on whatever and the process of creating doesn't always go as smoothly as one would like, with enough inspiration and will to create, everything always seems to fall in place sooner or later.
"You've got some disparate influences, I can hear everything from the Melvins to bands like Devo in there, is it safe to say you were trying to make music that had a certain feeling rather than something that fit into a certain sub-genre?"
JV: There should only be two genres: real and fake. Real music is all about feeling. Whatever words other people use to describe some band has nothing to do with the music. All you need is in the music. The rest is just distraction.
"Does the music press' fairly constant attempt to pigeonhole music annoy you guys in the band?"
JV: It's just not about that at all. While you're busy trying to define it in terms that have been used tens of thousands of times over, the music has already passed and ricocheted (is that a word?) off your heart.
It's also really boring do that. And it's an ignorant limit to your imagination. In between all genres are gaps of possibilities that are way broader than all journalist-approved/invented genres.
"Are there any specific bands out there you don't mind aligning yourself with? Perhaps a band with a similar ethos rather than a similar sound?"
JV: Baby Godzilla: every time they go on stage they give all they have, not caring about their limbs, absolutely going for it. And they are the sweetest guys.
"You've just released your 2nd album (RKTKN #2) which was produced by the legend that is Steve Albini, tell me a little about what that was like?"
JV: Pretty great from start to finish really. We really wanted to use our time as efficiently as possible, and Steve is a great guy to do that with. He's no time waster and he knows exactly what he needs for a certain sound or feel. He totally knows what he's doing, gets what we are doing, and makes it all work. He's a craftsman and has a very similar musical ethics to ours I think.
"How would you say this album different from your debut?"
JV: The first one was recorded digitally, track over track, partly arranged in the studio. The second one was recorded on tape, all instruments and vocals live (with the exception of a few guitar and synth overdubs) and we all knew the songs and our parts inside out before we went into the studio. The first one was recorded in a week, the second one in a little less.
"You're heading on tour at the moment, how would you describe the Raketkanon live experience?"
Chaos, insane dancing without caring what you look like, and just feeling the music. It's raw, but it's real. Anything goes, as long as there's no negativity. We really like physically active and responsive crowds. If everybody takes care of each other and if you have your buddy's back, that's all cool.
But do take care of each other. And leave those stupid windmill moves at home.
"And finally what are your plans for the rest of 2015?"
JV: We're really into the vibe of touring right now, and we'll probably be doing a lot of that for the coming months. The past few weeks, we've played in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and Switzerland, and in the next couple of weeks, we're doing a UK tour and we're also playing Greece and the Netherlands again.
RKTKN #2 is out now on Juno Records
For more info go to
Fresh from the launch of his debut solo album, Entanglement, I speak to veteran TV and film composer Michael Price about stepping into a new musical world.
Odds are if I was to say the word 'Sherlock' to you, it would instantly conjure up images of the London skyline and Benedict Cumberbatch's slightly odd face. However one element of the show that has also burrowed its way into your synapsis (whether you've noticed or not) is the evocative score.
Michael Price, the man behind the aforementioned Sherlock score, is part of a bright new crop of composers. Having started out creating music for contemporary dance pieces, he moved to working in film and TV under the tutorage of the late Michel Kamen and has now taken all he's learned and siphoned it into his first album of solo compositions.
Along with his contemporaries such as Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson, Price is embracing new ideas and technologies to create music that is based in the traditions of chamber orchestras, but is startlingly modern, and bathed in emotion. Currently being championed by the likes of Mary Anne Hobbs, it is likely that fans of modern minimalist music will soon have a new poster boy.
I caught up with Michael shortly after the release of, his debut, Entanglement to get his take on the inspirations behind the album.
Your debut album, Entanglement, is the result of two years work, can you tell me a little about the concept of the album?
Entanglement is the product of many of my obsessions and preoccupations, about how music is recorded, about quantum physics, about love and art. So you could say it's a musical document of everything I care about.
When did you begin composing the music for this album away from your film and television projects?
I've always composed music away from film and TV, but for quite a few years the screen work seemed to have taken up most of my time. I felt it was time to readdress the balance. So after releasing an EP of string quartets, "A Stillness", with Erased Tapes two years ago, I started writing the tracks that became Entanglement.
How does the writing process differ between the music you write for film and your own music?
It's fundamentally different, and so liberating. With film and TV, the structure of the music is defined by the shape of the scene, and the emotional journey of the characters. You're always supporting, and trying to make the film the best it can be, rather than putting the ego of the music, and the composer at the forefront. It's a joy to create stand-alone musical structures that are the way they are because the material goes that way, to let the music flow and grow.
There seems to be a very open mix of technologies on the album. You sampled street sounds using a mobile phone and recorded parts of "The Attachment" on a 1940's magnetic disc. Was there a thought process behind this mix?
We're in an incredibly rich time for recording and making music. We've got a century and a half of recorded music behind us, and so many new ways to capture sound. I don't think that new technologies always replace old ones, they're just different. There is something about the ceremony of putting a record on a turntable that encourages a different state of mind, than scanning down a list of tracks in Spotify.
I think making sense of how technology is transforming how we make, distribute and consume art is fascinating and important right now.
I understand that your love of psychics is part of what inspired this album. Tell me how science has influenced your art?
As the son of a physics teacher and a biology teacher, I've always been fascinated by the natural world, and particularly the metaphors and theories we use to try and understand it. Where quantum physics is at right now is so spectacularly mind-bending, that I can't help finding connections with the emotional world.
The soprano vocals on the album, performed beautifully by Ashley Knight, are actually English translations of Japanese poetry. Who is the poet (poets?) and what made you decide to use them?
Texts are really interesting - I wanted to find something that felt ancient, but simple, and the two poems, one from the 9th century and one from the 18th, are both about ageing and the turning of the seasons. Japanese poetry has such a strong connection with these subjects, it felt like a natural source.
I understand you started out creating music for a contemporary dance troupe. Has that influenced you throughout your career?
Contemporary dance is a great grounding for film and TV, in that you're collaborating right from the word go. And it's also very free and creative. In my early twenties I wrote the music for a dance chamber opera called All the Garden Gold about the Pre-Raphaelite movement, so Entanglement is in lots of ways a return home.
How did you become involved in film and Television work for the first time?
I got a job as assistant to the late Michael Kamen, the fabulous composer of everything from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, to Band of Brothers. The five years I spent working with him was the best apprenticeship anyone could hope for.
What is next for you? Can we expect more solo material?
I'm working out how to play Entanglement live and am already working on ideas for more solo music. It feels like I'm on the right path now.
Entanglement is out April 13 on Erased Tapes www.erasedtapes.com
For more information on Michel Price go to
On the eve of their 25th Anniversary (almost) I chat with Vincent Cavanagh of UK legends Anathema to discuss their legacy.
Bands react to genres in different ways. Some bands are happy to set up home in the very heart of their genre, wearing it and its conventions like a badge of honour (and there's nothing wrong with that). Some bands on the other hand are not keen to be put in boxes.
Since their earliest days as one of the progenitors of the Doom/Death Metal subgenre, Liverpool's Anathema has never stuck too closely to the script. Over almost a quarter of a century the band have transformed from heavier than thou metal to psychedelic space rock, and onto a form of progressive which is now very difficult to find a comparison for. In short they have forged their own sound at every turn, with little regard for what anyone else thinks.
I personally have a deep affection for the band (along with their contemporaries of the early 90's Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride) as they were some of the first acts to show me music could be properly cinematic. Add to that the fact that between them they've introduced me to the music of bands as diverse as (80's US Doomsters) Trouble and Dead Can Dance, for the sake of full disclosure, you could say I'm a loyal fan boy. Now on the eve of a retrospective headline show to celebrate their 25th Anniversary I get to chat to, main man, Vincent Cavanagh about this amazing band's legacy.
Hi Vincent, Tell me how it feels to celebrating Anathema's twenty-five year anniversary?
Actually the truth is we started Anathema in late '91 so 25 candles seems a little premature, maybe because the more numbers you have on an anniversary the less you want to know.
We've always been evolving and trying new things in our music, so it still feels very new and fresh to us, like we've only shown a small part of what we can do. There's a lot of ground to cover.
When you and Danny first formed the band did you ever imagine you'd get to this point?
When you're 15, 16 you don't really think that far ahead do you? I still don't to this day.
We have always focused on the present and the near future. But I'm massively proud that the same bunch of kids who started off playing music for fun are still here to this day, still making music because through everything, our friendship and brotherhood has held it's ground. We have stayed true to each other and the music we create and ideas we have come out of that deep bond, the collective memory and shared vision.
At the risk of treading over old ground tell us a little bit about how the band first came together and what you wanted to do?
When I was 11 years old, on the first day of school I was sat alphabetically next to John
Douglas (drums). This very nearly didn't happen as I could have gone to a different school, but due to this turn of fate we met, became friends and the whole thing stemmed from there. When we were about 15, we started hanging around with Danny a bit more, playing football every day on Stanley Park, Liverpool. "Jumpers for goalposts, isn't it wasn't it?" (Apologies if you've never seen 'The Fast Show'). He was well on his way to being a good guitarist at this point. I knew a few chords, but the rest of us just had the enthusiasm, so we picked it up as we went along. We wrote hilarious joke songs and recorded them on a kids' Fisher Price tape recorder. Anyway, not long after we'd somehow got serious and before we knew it had a record deal and were off on tour. Bonkers!
Did the whole "Doom/Death" scene feel as coherent as a lot of writers have made it seem in hindsight, or were things a little more disparate?
It's never a 'genre' until somebody gives it a name. I can't speak for the other protagonists, but from our side, by the time it had been called something, we had already moved on. But let's give credit where it's due here, the first to kick it off were Paradise Lost. We picked up that influence quickly but even from the beginning, when we wrote and recorded 'Crestfallen' for the first time it felt like we had a different approach. On the first record we experimented a bit. For instance we wrote a short piece, learned how to play it backwards, recorded it with the tape in reverse, then played the tape forwards to reveal the original song, with that reversed effect. We had classical/orchestral movements, spoken word, folky acoustic stuff with female vocals, and a 23-minute ambient synth piece. We never wanted to pin ourselves down to any one genre.
The music we were listening to at that time had an influence on this mentality too because we weren't listening to any of the other bands in the scene. I remember when I was 17 I was working at a recording studio and the guys there introduced me to Aphex Twin's 'Didgeridoo' and Hardfloor's 'Hardtrance Acperience', which blew my head right off. Most intense music I'd ever heard. It all coincided with meeting Duncan (bass) who was instrumental in our discovery of psychedelics and 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'. We listened to The Beatles almost constantly.
Looking back on it now, I think we always knew we were going to go somewhere else with our music. We weren't exactly sure where, but it was inevitable.
It feels like there have been very distinct periods in your career. Who is influencing your song writing in 2015 as opposed to 1990?
It's a funny one that because I think it's possible as a songwriter to be inspired by others without wanting to sound like them. Recently I've been listening to stuff like Casino vs
Japan, Max Richter, Frankie Sparo, Johann Johannson, Aphex Twin, James Blake, Deru,
Murcof, Bjork, Caribou, Brambles, Jon Hopkins... I haven't listened to many bands for a long time, just a couple. Most of the stuff I like is made by individuals. I like artists that are diverse, that aren't afraid to change and evolve, which is why I don't mind being associated with the term 'progressive', not as an antiquated genre, but as a forward thinking ethos.
Tell me a little bit about where the band is at the moment? I know you guys released your last (as in most recent) album 'Distant Satellites' in the middle of last year.
There are quite a few tunes knocking about. Danny, John & I have quite a lot to bring to the table already. We'll probably start looking at it all in detail in the summer. We already have very clear ideas about how we want to record our next album. We learned a lot during the making of 'Distant Satellites'.
What was it like working with (Porcupine Tree main man) Steve Wilson on that project?
He was a lifesaver. Stepping in at the last minute to mix two tracks, which our hero
Christer Andre Cederberg (producer) couldn't mix because he had to have an emergency operation. We were on tour in America at the time, so as you can imagine it was pretty stressful. But as soon as we heard Steven was available we could relax a bit because we knew the songs were in safe hands.
Tell me a little bit about The Resonance show happening in April, are you looking forward to revisiting some of the earlier material? I understand there will be some special guests?
Yeah I'm really looking forward to this now. For all sorts of reasons, firstly because we'll be revisiting a lot of tunes that we haven't played in a long while. It's a chance for the band to reclaim our relationship with those songs, a relationship which is much more fervid and visceral when you physically play the stuff, as opposed to putting on the record, which I never do. Those songs are not only a part of our discography; they are part of our life story so we're extremely protective of that. In some corners people surmise that because you have changed so much that you somehow have a disregard for your earlier records... they obviously don't know us very well. So this tour is our way to honour our heritage and two people in particular who played an enormous part in our formative years as a band: Darren White (vocals) and Duncan Patterson (bass). Both are visionaries in their own right, songwriters, gifted lyricists, their involvement in the band's identity and early evolution cannot be over stated. We're still very close, but haven't seen a lot of each other in recent years, so going on tour with them is going to be a laugh. That's what I remember most about our early touring, we had so much fun, so we can't wait.
The gigs themselves will be almost 3 hours in length, split into 3 parts, spanning the bands entire discography, starting with the newest songs, heading back in time through the albums, then set 2 will be with Duncan for everything between Alternative 4 and The
Silent Enigma, then the final set with Darren for songs from Pentecost III, Serenades and some of the rarer stuff. I'm personally looking forward to that part of the set because I'll get the chance to be the sideman again, the rhythm guitarist; life was easier in those days! Quite possibly some of the most important gigs we'll have done to date, and a chance for fans to get to experience some of these tunes for the last time (possibly).
How does it feel to have the returning Music for Nations re-releasing 3 of your albums around the same time too?
It's been very cool to be given the chance to re-master those records, with 'A Fine Day
To Exit' getting the biggest overhaul with a new track list and the inclusion of an intro that was discarded at the time. So from a personal standpoint, that's the most important thing for us. It's also a chance for people who have got on board in the last couple of years to hear what we were about from 1999-2004. That was an important period for us, after Duncan left, John rejoined and we forged ahead musically, continuing our evolution instead of relying on the successes of the past. I'm happy to be in a band that is in a constant state of change, so much now that people expect that from us, a rarity these days when a lot of people are playing it safe in order to pander to their fan base. But the most important thing for us regardless of all the talk of progression, is the tunes,
Anathema play at the Shepherds Bush Empire on the 16th April...
Bursting out the fertile Leeds scene, aggressive but classic rock minded noise mongers Super Luxury are a breath (or a blast) of fresh air the UK rock scene.
Noise bands in the past have focussed on the darker end of the spectrum. From SWANS pseudo-spiritual explorations to Big Black's dystopian portraits of suburban life, the music usually veers towards the bleak. Leeds based four piece Super Luxury have an alternative take on rock's most out there sub-genre. To them it's party music.
Forming several years ago, around the focal point of the legendary Budenell Social Club (where the band's debut has been recorded), the band's combined love of heavy, dense music, classic riffs and absurdist humour led to a unique voice in a UK rock scene than can sometimes seem a little stale.
There's not say to say these guys are a joke band, and to see them live you can feel the dedication to rockin out and showing people a good time oozing out of them.
I caught up with vocalist Adam Nodwell (also of sludge rock band Cattle) ahead of the release of their debut album and impending UK tour.
Hi Adam, for anyone who hasn't heard Super Luxury before describe your band's sound in a sentence?
Classic noise-rock action in the key of party.
What first brought you, Tom, Chris and Hamish together to form the band?
Have you seen the film the Mighty Ducks? If you replace ice hockey sticks with guitars, it happened just like that. Tom and Hamish are the bash brothers, and me and Chris are Emilio Estevez and that guy from Dawson's creek.
What would you say your key influences were? Two things that keep coming up is Noise mixed with the big riffs of classic rock or Doom music?
I would say collectively - definitely bands like Jesus Lizard, Big Black, Melvins and of course AC/DC. I'd say a few other less obvious ones would be U.S. Maple, Oxes and 400 Blows.
I'm guessing Fugazi are also an influence given your song "Ian Mackaye made so much money out of Fugazi that he lives in a solid gold house and drives a solid gold car and he sits on his driveway but he can't go anywhere because the wheels are made of solid gold"?
Absolutely, they are one of my favourite bands, it's all about the hooks and catchy riffs and a generally upbeat and positive sound. Les Savy Fav would also be worth a mention here.
Do you think there are enough UK bands at the moment with a sense of humour in their music?
I think so, I think most bands do have a sense of humour. You'd have to to be in a band in the first place. If you listen to bands like Bad Guys, Human Hair, St Pierre Snake Invasion they all definitely have an aura of comic appeal to them, but (and it's a big BUT) they aren't 'joke' bands, they back it up.
I've heard your live shows are pretty manic, hot dog eating competitions and crowd surfing ladders have been mentioned, I'm guessing the live arena is pretty important to you guys?
That's why we are in a band, to play shows, to see new places, to meet people and have fun. I don't see the point in 'making a go' of it, our music does not have mass appeal at all, it's for a very select few and what we are interested in is finding that few and getting our rocks off with them.
The Leeds scene has been on the up for several years now, do you feel a kinship with bands like Hawkeyes and Black Moth or is it more a rivalry?
Definitely not a rivalry, we are all in the same ship, and some would say it's a sinking ship in a rough sea of mainstream shit water that's claiming the lives of poor souls who don't know any better. We all need to grab a bucket or learn to swim.
Tell me about making your debut album, how was it to get your music down on tape?
It was a long process because none of us had really done it before, and we did it in a number of different locations using borrowed gear. But it has all come together nicely and has a very nice raw feel to it, I am very proud and by the time you will have read this interview I'm probably going to be bored of it.
You're about to go back out on tour, what can people expect?
Giant wads of cash handed out by dancing bears and little monkeys walking around with trays of Ferrero Rocher pyramids. Failing that, four very handsome, happy and sweaty men.
Finally what are your guys future plans for the band?
Well we are about 3 or 4 new songs in, so probably going straight for album number two. We enjoyed recording Ten Solid Years of Applause, so why not get straight back on it.
Ten Solid years of Applause is released on March 23rd
For more information go to
I tracked down the caustic, Canadian post-punk quartet to have a chat with them about their inspirations, playing live and the scene in their native Calgary.
The original Viet Cong, a Communist guerrilla army that operated in the south of Vietnam during their war with America, were either terrorists or freedom fighters depending on your point of view. The Contemporary Viet Cong, a post-punk quartet that have emerged from the Calgary Scene in Canada, can only be viewed as one thing. Awesome.
It's a word thrown around too often, usually by me, but on this occasion the band's noisy and hypnotic music really does fit the bill. A bit like hearing Joy Division reinterpreting the music of the 13th Floor Elevators, their debut album is already a strong contender for many 'best of 2015' lists.
With the band about to set out on a UK and European tour, I caught up with guitarist Scott Munro to get the low down on the band and what we can expect.
"Congratulations on the release of your self-titled debut, how does it feel to have it out?"
Scott Munro: It feels good! We had the songs for quite a while before we went into the studio and that was a year ago. It takes a pretty long time to put a record out and I'm glad to have it all done.
"I understand that the album was partially written while you were on the road, how do you think that affected your music?"
SM: It meant that we could try out everything in front of an audience at least once before we tried to put it on tape. I think the main reason that helps is because then when you're in the studio, you have a bar set for the energy level that works for that song.
"Your sound's clearly been influenced by the icier strain of post-punk, what artists or bands would you say have been the most influential on this record?"
SM: Hmmm, I guess whatever we were listening to on the tour leading up to that? That was our first long tour together and we really bonded over some music in the car. I remember listening to lots of Bowie, Iggy Pop's "the idiot," a bunch of The Cure, This Heat and some other stuff that I can't remember.
"Viet Cong's a relatively new band, how did you come together?"
SM: Me and Matt were both playing in Chad VanGaalen's band when we first started talking about it. When we got back from tour we just got together in my basement studio to jam on some riffs and make some rough demos. Then when Mike got back from the tour that he was on he joined pretty much right away and he suggested Danny (who was playing in a Black Sabbath cover band with Mike and Matt). After our first jam with Danny we knew he was the guy and we just went from there.
"When you formed did you have a specific objective for the music you were making?"
SM: Not at all. We just got together with the intention of trying out some ideas and seeing what working together was like. We'd toured together before but never written any music together. What we recorded for "Cassette" I think is a testament to our lack of direction at the time. I like those recordings for what they are but they're pretty all over the place musically. We were just trying out anything that came to us though. Once Danny and Mike joined and we started playing some shows our sound got a lot more focused.
"You've got ties with the scene in Calgary (including Chad VanGaalen) can you describe for us Brits what life's like in that part of Canada?"
SM: The scene in Calgary is pretty tight. Everyone knows one another and most people have played in one or more bands with most other people. There's actually a bunch of good places to play here though and quite a few great bands. As for this part of Canada, it's pretty cold this time of year (although today is quite lovely actually) but the summers are beautiful!! The mountains that we're close to are really beautiful too and only about an hour drive from here.
"Do you think your home state and the scene there has had an effect on your music?"
SM: I'm sure it has. I know that the winter makes a difference because when you don't want to do anything outside, it's easy to just hole up in a basement and play guitar. On the other side of that though, we don't really get much done in the summer.
"You're heading out on a European tour, what can we expect from your lives shows?"
SM: I dunno. We're a rock band and it gets pretty rowdy sometimes. Danny may or may not fall through his amp or the drums. We'll probably break some strings and deal with it in the least professional manner possible, almost as though we'd never even considered that it could even happen. I'm excited though and I think it's gonna be a fun tour.
"What have the band got planned for the rest of 2015?"
SM: Just hitting the road. We have shows booked for the next few months and then we'll see. We have most of a new record written and demoed so maybe we'll find some time to get into the studio and get that ball rolling again.
For more info on Viet Cong go to
One of the most enigmatic groups in contemporary music, I was lucky enough to sit down with Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie of A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
Collaboration is the thing at the heart of some of musical history's greatest moments. Would David Bowie's Berlin trilogy been as good if Brian Eno wasn't on hand? Would Trent Reznor be winning Oscars without Atticus Finch? And of course you only have to look at Run The Jewels to appreciate how special it can be when two artists come together.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen is a project that came about through the chance meeting of pianist/composer Dustin O'Halloran and guitarist/composer Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie of Stars Of The Lid, two artists at the absolute top of their game. Both have extensive backgrounds in the worlds of experimental music, film work and alternative rock, and A Winged Victory For The Sullen is a project with which both of them want to embrace unrestrained creativity.
Their music defies categorisation. It mixes ambient drones, electronics and hints of emotive piano music to create a distinct and haunting sound.
In 2014 they released their second full length 'Atomos' and they are now touring it around the world. I caught up with them before their second bout of London shows to discuss the album and their inspirations.
"Welcome back to the UK guys, you've just started a European tour, what is touring like for you guys?"
Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie: It's fun.
Dustin O'Halloran: We're good friends, the people that play with us are good friends. It's like a little family.
"I saw you guys several years ago playing material from your self-titled debut. Does the live setup differ for the material from your latest effort?"
Adam: We've got a smaller group with us this time as we couldn't afford to bring a larger orchestra.
Dustin: We wrote this piece for two cellos, that's partially a change. We've got two cellos, a viola and violin.
Adam: But we'll still sometimes play with three people, sometimes four.
"Do you have a preference for the kind of venues you play with this material?"
Adam: Churches and theatres work best, we've found with 'Atomos'.
Dustin: Sometimes it's nice to do a strange location like a rock club. We need a lot of bass, and sometimes a rock club is great for that. We do a lot of work on our low end, the drone side of things. But churches have a good sound system and a lot of natural acoustics, which is nice to be able to use.
"Tell me a little bit about the concept behind the new 'Atomos' record. My understanding is it was created for a dance performance?"
Dustin: Well, Wayne (McGregor) was a big fan of our first record, and it was as simple as him reaching. We realised we'd never worked in a dance environment before and we had some time, so it was just like a perfect storm of timing and curiosity.
"How did you go about writing the piece?"
Adam: Initially we started. He gave us a chunk of time and then he started choreographing to the music. There was a little bit more back and forth, push and pull. We got to go and see the dancers a little and observe them.
Dustin: It was never that we were in a room and had to try and create something for the dancers. He would give us ideas or would say things to give us inspiration. He would give us photos, videos and things that were part of his concept.
"He was steering you a little bit?"
Dustin: Not musically, but conceptually. I think that was why he was such a great collaborator, because he never once told us how we should arrange the music. It was more about how he was trying to inspire us. He would say things like 'What would it be like if you went into a black hole and came out the other side, what would that sound like?'.
"So he was really just providing the themes to the work?"
Dustin: Yeah, so his concepts of atoms, his concepts of outer space and all of these elements. He did a lot of science research for his dance piece and developed a lot of programs. It's just the heady mix of a lot of stuff and that was our starting point.
"I haven't seen the piece myself; did you guys attend the premiere?"
Adam: Oh, we've played it live, yeah. It was strange; we were in an orchestra pit. It was fine. I'd never done it before.
Dustin: The strange thing is we've still not actually seen the dance piece live (laughs) because we're in the orchestra pit. We've seen a video, and we had some small monitors in the orchestra pit for cues, but not properly. I'd like to actually see it, sit in the audience. It's going to tour with a recorded version of the music.
"Do you guys see yourself doing more multi-media style projects in the future?"
Adam: I don't really look at it like that. Every project has a voice and you either do it or you don't. I don't think it's a particular thing that you're looking to do. Sometimes you get lucky to get involved in an interesting project and you decide to do it or not. I don't see anything in particular that we're aiming for.
Dustin: Yeah, we weren't particularly looking to do something in dance. It's just how it was. Before it'd honestly never come to mind.
"Have you found that anything about the performances have changed since it's been taken out of the dance context?"
Adam: We've been talking about this a lot recently. The premiere was actually just over a year ago and we've given this recording something of a second life as we're taking it out and playing it in different contexts for our audience who probably haven't seen the dance and probably never will see the dance.
Dustin: A little shortening here and there, but the pieces are essentially the same.
"And during the writing process, did you find yourselves working in a different way to your previous album?"
Adam: We still worked in the same way, it was just with the timing and the deadline there was more urgency.
Dustin: We'd only done one record so we hadn't had the chance to get into any habitual way of writing. Yes, there was a third element in there (Wayne) who kind of stirred the pot up again. We have a chemistry, which is why it works. But the way that we work is still mysterious. Every time we do it we're trying to discover something.
"Just to take things back a bit. I understand the pair of you met in Italy at a show Adam was playing a?t"
Adam: Yeah, I was on tour with Sparklehorse and Dustin came to the show. We met backstage afterwards and over the course of probably about a year we became friends. Dustin was working on his solo record (Lumiere) and he had a track that he was interested to see if I could do something on it. It actually turned out really beautiful, but it was really difficult for me to fit everything in. It was a solo piano piece. It was a real challenge to fit my sound in there. I said after "hey, if we do this again do you think you could play slower?" (laughs) and so A Winged Victory For The Sullen was born.
"And when the band came together and you started working together on the album, did you have like a concept in mind for the project or was it simply that you enjoyed working together and wanted to see what would happen?"
Adam: I think that was it exactly. There was no goal. We just wanted to have fun.
Dustin: When we decided to make the first record there were three things that were really important. We had to enjoy the whole process. We'd both made records that were painful in our lives and this time we just wanted to enjoy it. We also wanted to just record in a way that made us feel good, things like using analogue, different, just stuff that was really inspiring to us.
"How did your relationship with Erased Tapes first come about, as there seems to be a boon in music that, if not similar in style, is similar in feel?"
Adam: Well, we just sent him (Robert) the record and he loved it.
Dustin: I actually met Robert first at a concert that Jóhann Jóhannsson did, and he was backstage hanging out, and I remember he just seemed like a go-getter guy who gave me his card and I checked out some of the music.
Adam: Also, Dustin lives in Berlin and he's friends with (Nils) Frahm. We sent the album to a few labels and Erased Tapes was just one of them, but Robert was the guy who came back and said "guys, I just really love this record". His passion just led us to sign up.
"Do you feel there's something of a scene forming around the label?"
Adam: I hope not, scenes come and go. If we were having this interview 15 years ago we'd be talking about post-rock. This is the exactly the same interview I would have at that exact time, people thought me and Tortoise all lived in a big house and made post-rock together. Now we're talking about neo-classical and in five years we'll be talking about something else.
Dustin: I think everyone on the label is doing really different things. Classical is just a slice of what we do. There's elements of drone, there are elements of minimalism, there's experimental. All of that is in there. It's all part of both of our histories that have led to this moment. I would hope that we can create a space that's just our journey through music and not getting lumped into a scene that will eventually fade out of favour.
"What's next for you guys after this run of shows?"
Dustin: We've got a lot of touring; we're hitting here, Australia, Europe, and the States. I've got some solo material I'm working on as well.
Adam: I've got a solo record on Temporary Residence coming out. Dustin just worked on a TV show (Amazon's Transparent).
You can find out more information on A Winged Victory For The Sullen and their up-coming live shows at www.awvfts.com and
I have a chat with, new UK upstarts, Boston Manor ahead of their nationwide tour with Moose Blood
I'm not patriotic in the slightest. Honestly, I don't like real ale, I'm not massively fussed about pies and roast dinners, and I don't like cricket (don't say it). What does bring a tear to my eye and give me an urge to fly the Union Jack is when a British bands comes good on all that back room promise and break through. The early 21st century appears to be a good time for UK rock music and the young Boston Manor look set to join the ranks of Moose Blood, Gnarwolves and Basement.
Coming out of the none-more-British seaside resort of Blackpool the young band have been spending the last few years perfecting their own blend of scrappy, emo influenced punk rock, while at the same time finishing their degrees.
They recently released their second EP, 'Driftwood', and the collection of 6 tracks marks a next step in their development as songwriters, dealing with the trials and tribulations of post-adolescence in the early part of the new century.
Before they step out on tour with Moose Blood around the UK I caught up with Henry Cox to talk influences, plans and the future
Hi there Henry, How are things with you? How was your 2014?
Hey, very well thank you, Our 2014 was brilliant. A lot of awesome stuff happened that we never anticipated.
I know in October you released a brand new EP/mini-Album called Driftwood, tell me a little about that?
We recorded it with Grant Berry back in June and it was released a few months ago on Failure By Design records.
How would you say it's different from your previous material, such as the Here/Now EP?
With Here/Now we were really just finding our feet. Jordan and Ash (drummer and guitarist) weren't even in the band when it was written. To be honest, I still think of it more as a demo. Never the less, I'm still very proud of those songs. With Driftwood, it was really the first time we all sat down together and worked on a proper release, which was great. I think it definitely feels more like a release rather than a collection of songs.
For those who don't know tell me a little it about how you guys got together, who were your mutual influences?
We all sort of knew one another from playing shows in local bands. A friend introduced me to Dan and Mike, who I'd been told wanted to start a band, so we just sat down and started writing. There was no direct influence from any bands in particular. We all grew up listening to bands like Brand New, Blink 182 and NOFX so we knew we wanted to do something in the Pop Punk spectrum but there was no band or sound specifically that we were aiming for.
What's the scene in Blackpool like?
Unfortunately at the minute it's fairly non existent. At one time there were a lot of local shows happening, but almost all the venues have shut down now or won't allow all ages shows. I think in due course it will start up again though. A few of us have been speaking to a decent venue that's just started so we might try and get some shows sorted in the near future.
I know you guys are going out on tour with Moose Blood in January, are you guys excited?
Really excited. We've all been fans of that band for a long time, so we were really flattered when we were approached to do the tour. That album is so sick.
Do you think those guys being signed to No Sleep has been good for UK bands?
I hope so. More and more UK bands are getting picked up now by US labels. Just in the last few months ROAM and As It Is have signed to Hopeless and Fearless (respectively), Gnarwolves have been doing their thing on Pure Noise for a while, as have Landscapes. What this will hopefully mean, at the very least, is that more US fans start paying attention to the array of underrated UK bands that are doing the rounds at the moment, which will hopefully give them more of an international platform.
I know you guys have all recently just graduated from Uni, what are you plans for taking the band forward in 2015? when can we expect to hear a full length from you?
Well we do this more or less full time now, (apart from the odd shift here and there at Shoemarket and Subway) so we're really looking to tour as much as possible. We've got some cool stuff in the works that we can't really talk about now (although we really want to). I wouldn't want to say when a full length will be out. I want to say some time in 2015 but don't hold me to that!
For more info go to
Spearheading a new wave of post-hardcore from Scandinavia, Disembarked have just dropped their debut full length, and I caught up with vocalist Pontus C. before they head off on the road in Europe.
When your average Brit thinks of Sweden they probably think of Ikea, ABBA and the chef from the Muppets. Ask your average rock fan what they think about Sweden and you'll get a list of bands (from Refused to At The Gates) that have had massive influence on modern rock over the last 20 years.
Disembarked are the latest in a long line of bands that are keen to express themselves in heavy music, without resorting to genre clichés like bullet belts or straight edge tattoos and shaved heads. The young Stockholm band produce an exciting mixture of hardcore, post rock and emo, revitalising each genre in turn.
Their debut album, 'Nothing Wrong Here', has just been released through Dog Night productions, and the dynamic young band is embarking on a mini European tour.
I caught up with Pontus C. before they set off to chat about the album and the band's creative vision.
"Hey guys, congratulations on the release of your album 'Nothing's Wrong here'. How does it feel to get your debut full length out there?"
Thanks it feels awesome, it's our first full length, so it's a huge milestone for us. And to have a gatefold right away is kinda cool too. It's an album that has taken some time to complete due to different reasons. So it's a very big thing for us to be able to complete this instead of just doing another EP. We're really happy with how the album turned out and very thankful to Dog Knights Productions who wanted to release it.
"You're a fairly new band, how did you come together? Do you all have similar influences, or were you just a collective of friends?"
Wow, that is a long complicated story. Like really complicated, let's just say we met at the mall and just said "hey lets start a band". The forming of Disembarked is a long term thing, to skip a few years, Disembarked is a continuation of an old band Gustav, Olle and I had, that disbanded.
We had another Pontus (Pontus G.) join the band on bass guitar and after the first EP was written we also had Johan join the band.
"Would you say the band has a specific mission or ethos?"
We don't have any ideals, missions, agenda, propaganda or anything we're trying to get across. It's more like self-therapy and wanting to create something we like.
"Stockholm was known back in the day as having a very active hardcore and death metal scene, giving rise to the likes of Entombed and Dismember, what are things like on the contemporary scene?"
Things are pretty fine, thanks to Stockholm Straight Edge, they put up a lot of great shows. There are a few bands as well, I'd say it's pretty good overall. Of course, it could be a lot more active, right now it's a pretty small but active scene.
"Any other young Stockholm bands you see following in your footsteps?"
In our footsteps probably no, but there are a couple of Stockholm bands out there already. Bands such as Grieved, No Omega, Sore Eyelids. It's hard to just point out Stockholm bands, as the scene is kind of all around in Sweden. It's not a big country haha.
"Tell me a little about the process of writing 'Nothing's wrong here', did you have a concept in mind?"
We wanted to keep what we've been doing before, but also, as every other band, wanted to evolve and create something new.
We tried a bunch of stuff, lots of different instruments while writing the songs. Not that it ended up so spaced out anyway, but yeah. We don't really have a concept other that the lyrics are based on personal experiences which mostly are about the same thing. The title "Nothing's Wrong Here" is about facade family. Being forced to uphold the image of a happy family but being the opposite behind closed doors. Enacting those lies that 'no, there's nothing wrong here'.
The artwork goes along with that, having the front picture a nice house with a nice garden. But the backside being a bad side of it with the broken swings and dead trees etc.
"How has your song writing changed from your earliest material to now?"
I guess we're more focused on trying to get a red line through the track, the self-titled EP is kind of just stacking parts. Listening to it now is a big turn off for us. We're trying to get a good mix of emotions of the music and the lyrics now, fitting stuff for the lyrics. And sometimes the other way around. The actual writing process haven't changed besides that we have two guitarists instead of one now. We write 95% of our stuff while in the rehearsal space together.
"What's playing live been like for you? Any career highlights so far?"
It's been the best thing in the world, obviously!! We have had a lot of great shows, really. The one that comes to mind is Fluff Fest 2013. The show we played in Stockholm this year was so much fun as well, our first show for like a year, and the line-up was awesome, lots of friends and label mates.
But thinking about shows are more like thinking of the date, like being on tour. You remember the experience from the day, there is so much more than the actual show. Meeting new people, seeing places etc.
"Now you've released your début album, what's your next big ambition?"
We just want to tour now, that's the only thing in our mind. We haven't toured that much before, so now that's the only thing we're focused on. We would love to get over to another continent, play with amazing bands.
We'll see what the future bring us, we'll continue writing songs and see what happens!
"Any plans for visiting the UK?"
Yeah, absolutely! We've been looking into a UK tour, but might postpone it a bit to get it during a bigger Europe trip. For now we only have a little quickie tour through Europe in Jan/Feb 2015, but there's no UK shows on that. But probably on the next one!
'Nothing Wrong Here' is out now and the band will be on tour in Europe in...
Fresh from the release of their new album(s) I had a chat with, drummer, Santos Montano of Old Man Gloom about music and messing with the press.
The crossover between punk and metal music has been widely documented in the past (think Black Flag and Napalm Death). What is less talked about, and I think far more interesting, is the mix of post-punk/alternative rock and Metal which began to ferment in the mid 90's and led to formation of iconic bands like Converge, Cave In, Botch and, of course Old Man Gloom.
(Debatably) born out of the Massachusetts punk scene, bands began bringing together elements of Emo, Punk, Doom metal, Death metal, Post- rock and Prog to create a cerebral form of heavy music that borrowed as much from the bands on (legendary Mancunian Indie label) Factory as it did bands on Roadrunner.
Old Man Gloom formed as a sort of super group (a term I'm sure the band hate) in order to explore undiluted expression in heaviness away from the various members day jobs. The band features ISIS' Aaron Turner, his long-time friend Santo Montano, Cave In's Caleb Scofield and Converge's Nate Newton. Since their inception the band has cut a single minded path creating some of the heaviest (and smartest) music of the last ten years.
Ahead of the release of their latest effort Ape of God the band released a fake version of the album (actually a double album split across two volumes) to the press to make a point about the leaking of bands material by "jerk" writers. With this in mind it was with a little apprehension that I caught up with Santos.
"Welcome back Santos, can I ask what you guys have been up to since No in 2012?"
It's been a turbulent time in the band since 2012. We haven't ever been a real band, but after NO, we attempted to act more like a real band. Doing things like "touring" and playing "live" weren't things we had to work at, because we just didn't do it. We were like the Harry Nilsson of weird metal. We enjoyed making NO so much though, that we had to give it a go.
"You guys seem to like messing with expectations, I for example am not entirely sure what of the two Ape of God records I've heard , what was the inspiration for this bait and switch technique? (I'd like to state for the record I wasn't one of "those jerks" who leaked the record."
You don't seem like a jerk. But some dickweed did leak it, and it kinda justified the whole prank. The inspiration is a three headed monster. First, there is no reason to do things in any conventional way for us. There are literally no consequences. Even if worst case scenario, every journalist on earth flipped us off and vowed to never write another word about us ever again, leading to not one human knowing about our next record, leading us to never be able to play a show again, that would affect our lives very little. Not saying we don't love the shit out of Old Man Gloom, we do, but we've essentially hit the ceiling. The whole thing, more than anything, was meant to make people who are familiar with our antics laugh. Not a deep belly laugh, but a slight "those silly dicks" kinda laugh. Mission accomplished.
"Was there a lot of new influences brought to the writing, or do you stay very much true to the original ethos (correct me if I'm wrong) or making doomy, experimental hardcore?"
Hmmmmmm..... It's tough to say. The ridiculous reality of Old Man Gloom is there isn't a lot of talk. Everything happens extremely quickly, so what you hear on our records is almost entirely spontaneous. Even if a song writer spends a lot of time conceptualizing a song, the rest of us have almost no time with it before we get to the part where it's on a record.
"How much is Kurt Ballou (Converge guitarist and OMG producer) involved with the writing process?"
None. He has never attended a writing session. He does have carte blanche to say "that fill is stupid" or "that was terrible", or "can we lose the high school double bass?", which are all things said to me during the Ape sessions.
"For those who don't know can you tell us a little about how the band initially came together?"
Aaron and I are childhood friends from Santa Fe. We met in High School. We remained friends, and after Aaron went to art school in Boston, he would come home for summers, so we would do little projects together. The first one was a concept band. The idea was that we'd play one house party, and Aaron would play an acoustic, and it would be all covers that had a theme.
Anyway, the next summer, he had an idea for another concept band, and that was OMG. We wrote the whole thing in one day, and recorded and mixed the entire thing in 12 hours. That was meditations in B. I had no idea that you weren't expected to record and mix in one day until we did the next record. I think I like it better when you have to just get it done in one day...
"I know journalists love to come up with 'scenes' or 'movements', but do you think there is/was something unique about the Massachusetts sound that the band came out of?"
Well, short answer is no. The sound is very much Santa Fe, in my mind. We use a lot of that thematically, as well, the desert, the southwest, etc. Beyond the first record, it gets even murkier, as Caleb is from New Hampshire, and Nate is from Virginia. All of us getting together in Mass, and all the contributing bands obviously play a huge part in why we all know each other, and why we chose who we chose, but honestly, I don't think there's much Converge, Cave In, or Isis in Old Man Gloom. That being said, for me, and all of us I'm sure, that time, and the people who made up that scene were very special. It's definitely the most musically formative time in my life.
"And finally, I know the band don't often play live, are their plans for a tour this album?"
We have some things cooking. We'd love to find a venue in Brussels that only fits one person in it, so we can play just for that one guy. We'd also like to tour Central and South America. Someone make that happen.
Both volumes of Ape of God are out now.
You can find more information at
I chat to one half of the Scandinavian electronic duo
Classical music and electronic music have had a close relationship since the early days of synthesisers. German experimentalists such as Kraftwerk and Neu all took inspiration from contemporary composers such as Stockhausen and...