Lightnin’ Malcolm is an emerging driving force in the genre of underground Blues as a member of the North Mississippi All-Stars and also as a solo artist. Alongside counterpart Carl Gentle White aka "Stud" on drums, the dichotomy of their two styles produces a rough, soulful sound that reminds folks of Blues legends like Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf. Audiences should be prepared to dance, party and delight in Malcolm’s deep Mississippi sounds tonight at the Southgate House Revival. Malcolm is opening for and playing alongside the North Mississippi All-Stars. Showtime is 8 p.m.
CityBeat: I know you have an album coming out on Sept. 10. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Lightnin' Malcolm: Well, it is 14 original songs and they have quite a few different styles on them. It is all based on my style, which is based on the hard driving, raw boogie North Mississippi Hill Country style. It is mostly (the) guitar and drums duo but we add some horns on a few tracks. We have Luther Dickinson playing slide on a few songs. So it is a pretty good mix of stuff.
CB: I was listening to some of it this week. I love “My Life is a Wreck.” Can you tell me the story behind that song?
LM: Well, that is a semi-autobiographical piece. One of my greatest influences was T Model Ford and he recently passed and that song was based on a style he had on the guitar. His grandson Stud is playing drums with me now. That was the first song we did in the studio. That was his first song recording and I thought it was a great way to feature it. My music depends on a great drummer. Drums are so important to the music and he is one of the best. I have known Stud since he was like 1 years old. He grew up watching me play drums with his granddad. He knows the style of drums that I like, the raw, four on the floor, predator style, no messing around. Just raw and making people dance. By us knowing each other so long, he is like my little baby brother. We have this chemistry together that works so well.
CB: I watched some videos of you two playing together. It is super high energy and looks like a lot of fun.
LM: Yeah, that is the key to it all. We don’t have to hit a note exactly right or (do flashy) guitar solos. We just try to create as much … fun for the people as we can. We just want to see people party and have fun.
CB: How old were you when you picked up your first guitar?
LM: I was about 10 or 12. Before that, I really wanted to be a drummer. I used to beat on buckets and pots and pans, put the radio on and play along with them. I didn’t have any actual drums and I finally got a hold of a little piece of guitar. I didn’t know how to tune it or nothing, but I fell in love with the strings in my hand. It took a while to learn how to tune it because I didn’t have anybody around me to show me at that time. Once I learned how to tune it, I started learning pretty fast. It just became everything to me. I look at the guitar like some people look at The Bible. It is like a vehicle for something later. I leave Earth. I can go on a vacation in my backyard with a guitar. I can escape to a whole other world with it.
CB: I know you eventually moved to Mississippi after growing up in Missouri. How did you hook up with some of these great guitar and Blues players in Mississippi?
LM: I just made friends with them. They saw something special in me, I think. I wasn’t trying to blow them off stage. I didn’t ask them many questions, like how to do things. They noticed whatever they played, I could play back. They hadn’t seen too many white guys, or any guys, that could do that. So we just made friends. It was pretty easy. Those were the kind of guys I wanted to be around. They really took me in. They were really nice to me. They never said I wouldn’t be able to do it. There was everybody else saying, “You won’t be able to do it.” They were the guys saying, “You got it. Stick with it.”
CB: Alive or dead, what one person would you want to collaborate with if you could?
LM: That’s a good question. I think, you know what’s funny, there are a lot of people outside of the Blues I’d like to collaborate with nowadays. Of course, like, John Lee Hooker is one of my all time favorites, Howlin' Wolf, there are so many Blues guys. Out of living artists, I’ll tell you a guy I love right now, two guys I love, they are more like R&B. (One is an) artist named Lyfe Jennings, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, he’s fucking awesome, he’s so sincere. Another guy is Anthony Hamilton who is a Soul singer. To me, even though their style is way different than mine, those are guys I really hear singing where I’m like, "Wow, they really hit the ceiling." You don’t hear it that much anymore. Everybody is using effects. You really don’t hear that wail in that voice. Otis Redding had that, you heard his voice and you just had to see him. You don’t hear anybody like that anymore. I know people wouldn’t expect that from me, but when I am riding down the highway listening to music, those are two guys I really listen to, that I look up to and would be great to collaborate with.
CB: That leads me into another question. There has been so much publicity recently around Pop music with Miley Cyrus and the VMAs. To me it shows how much more important it is to keep really authentic Blues music in front of people. What are your thoughts on that?
LM: I agree with that. I’m out here fighting the good fight doing what I can. It’s not always easy. People have to support what is going on. If people start throwing their money at garbage, you’re going to end up with a lot of garbage. I can’t speak for the next person but I can say this — there isn’t enough hours in the day to listen to great music. There is all the great music you can listen to. There is definitely no time for nonsense. I don’t waste time listening to stuff that sounds like garbage. That’s just me.
My drummer, Stud, he’s young. He was watching the awards the other night and I was laying on the couch trying to sleep. I didn’t miss much. The hours in the day are precious. I would use them wisely. You don’t have to listen to garbage. That’s about the best I can do. If anybody can make some money doing something, good for you, I don’t mean it the wrong way. If you ask me about serious music, there is great music out there being made. It is just underground. Maybe it is too real for people. I am not the expert on this type of thing, I just know what I like, I listen to what I like. Even when I was a kid in school, I was listening to way different music. I was listening to Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker and would tell the other kids, “You have got to hear this. Check it out.” They just said, “Whatever.” I thought maybe when they grew up they would understand.
CB: What can the fans expect from you guys at the Southgate House Revival show?
LM: We are coming to rock y’all. We want y’all to come and have fun and dance and boogie. We want you to get in the groove and forget about everything in the outside world for a couple hours and get in the zone. We want to have a party for y’all. Being on stage can be the funnest thing in the world when it is going right. When it is going wrong, you just want to disappear. It is a funny thing. When it is right, it is right as a motherfucker.
The Gentlemen of the Road stopover tour started off as a rather simple concept. Mumford & Sons would invite a few of their music-playing friends to travel with them. They’d stop over for the weekend in towns they’d never been to before, towns they had no reason to visit. They would play two days’ worth of gigs for people they’d probably not ever played for before.It was just a small, scattered list of dates in BFE. NBD. Somewhere along the way, it became something much different. And much bigger. The “stopover tour” now looks much more like a takeover tour.
“It’s more about the town than the music,” was a sentiment you could hear echoed all over town. From the security guards to the people charging fans $20 to park in their driveway near the festival grounds. And that is an accurate statement.
When the Gentlemen rolled into Troy on the very last weekend of August they did, indeed, take over the tiny town. They did everything possible to put Troy’s best foot forward. The city center, with the fountain that turns pink in June for a strawberry festival, was closed down. WACO airfield was turned into a magnificent parking lot. Multiple school districts sent school buses to help transport music lovers from the parking lot to just a few blocks away from the festival grounds. You never had to wait for a bus, there were always plenty. Why can’t school districts work their own bussing schedules so fluidly? Even the Wendy’s in the next town stayed open until 2 a.m. in order to cater to Mumford fans.
Mumford & Sons ran Troy’s economy. The bakery served a limited menu and from the window hung loaves of bread shaped like mustaches – the international symbol for “Folk band.” A seemingly otherwise unused storefront became Mumford Market, which sold strawberry donuts and other festival essentials. Every storefront had a purpose, featuring window art of the four Brits in charge, of their acoustic instruments or of that omnipresent mustache (it was even painted on the streets). Aside from the Troy High School football field, which held the main stage and the bulk of fest goers, there were still two small stages downtown and another handful of street performers littering the crowded streets.
Heck, they even took over the Troy Police Department. For a town as tiny as Troy, they can’t possibly have very many cops and it seemed like nearly all of them were roaming around inside the closed-off festival area. You know that hard-assed vibe cops often get, especially when pulling security detail? Troy cops were the nicest (and best looking) unit to pull security at a concert I've seen. One of the highlights of the festival was watching an older (clearly drunk) woman swat an officer’s backside with her tambourine. He was quick to whip around and give her a quirk of the brow. When she gave him a grin and a wink, he laughed, wagged his finger and carried on. Later, as the woman and her tambourine flirted endlessly with one of the security guards, the TPD watched with grins and amusement. Nothing more.
And that bout of tambourine-assisted sexual harassment? Probably one of the worst crimes committed during the festival. One of the stage security guards remarked at how surprisingly low-maintenance the crowd was and one of the police officers on duty was quick to agree that the out-of-towners were exceptionally well-behaved. All of his calls had been to deal with locals — and even those calls didn’t seem like anything noteworthy or unusual for a festival environment.
Mumford & Sons fans know how to be polite when overtaking a city.
The festival repaid fans by taking over their nature. When they bought their tickets for the stopover date, they were sent a wristband, a fancy holographic ticket and a passport. The passport held info about last year’s first ever stopover tour, the band, the best restaurants and scenes to check out while in the area. And, just like a real passport, there were places to have stamped. Certain restaurants and stores had stamps. Every performer had a person in a booth at the back of the stadium with a custom stamp. People walked the festival grounds” with the rubber stamp, ready to bequeath another ink splotch on each passport. It was a race to get them all. A chance to maybe, just maybe, win a prize or learn something new.
What you really want to know about is the music though, right?
The festival may have been more about the town than the music, but the music was still what drew thousands of people to Troy’s gorgeous city streets. It was, after all, a concert, and the music that took over Troy’s stadium needs to be discussed.
Friday was a short day, with the festivities not kicking off until after everyone had time to show up after work. Of course, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Friday night headliners, were the clear draw for fans on Day 1. The Zeros have traveled with Mumford & Sons before, most notably on their "railroad revival" tour, and even released their newest album on the Communion label, a pet project of Mumford’s piano player, Ben Lovett. Technically, the band is solid. The only difference between their records and their live performances is the sheer amount of energy they bring to the stage. The group has fun on stage and that fun easily makes its way into the crowd. But if you’ve seen one Edward Sharpe concert, you’ve seen them all. If you haven’t ever seen them, then you’re missing out.
Saturday was magnificent, loud and the best kind of exhausting you could imagine. A little after lunch, the stage came to life with the lovely Indie Brit Rock band Bear’s Den (who will be back in Ohio to play Cincinnati's MidPoint Music Festival at the end of the month). They might have only kicked off the day, but their talent deserved a later slot. After Bear’s Den came Nashville’s Those Darlins, headed by Jessi Darlin, a wisp of a girl with a set of dragon-sized lungs. Rubblebucket, from Brooklyn, showed up next and bestowed upon festival goers all their weird, twitching energy. They’re awesome, but putting them before the decidedly more mellow (but still oh-so-awesome) Justin Townes Earle seemed a little ill-placed. It felt a little like revving the engine of a Mustang when you’re still three stop signs away from an open country road. Justin Townes Earle was brilliant, of course, but very laid back, and Rubblebucket left everyone pretty amped. On the upside, Earle’s joke about the Westboro Baptist Church earned him laughs.
Mumford & Sons also imported their friends, The Vaccines. Also hailing from England, The Vaccines’ lead singer Justin Young previously recorded on the Communion label as Jay Jay Pistolet, a far more tame version of the vintage Rock that evolved to make The Vaccines what they are today. This new creation doesn’t seem to get quite as much love from Communion’s heads as some of their other friends and that’s really a shame. The Vaccines are with Columbia now and blowing up in the U.K., but still floundering in America. They’re brilliant, though, and crowds eat them up. They sound gritty and much more Punk Rock than anything on the radio right now, but they could very easily end up on those playlists. They bring an insane amount of sexual energy to the stage, too. Remember that old Almost Famous quote about the fans “getting off?” One guttural bellow from Young ignited a crowd full of shrieks. The end of The Vaccines meant half the crowd needed a cigarette.
Earlier in the day, one of the security guards said he’d worried the concert would be full of Bluegrass bands, something he hated. So far, though, he liked what he had heard. He had no idea that after The Vaccines, things were about to get real blue, real fast. Old Crow Medicine Show are old pros by now. Not only have they toured with Mumford & Sons previously, but they’ve also been around for ages. Maybe that’s why their concerts always seem similar. They’re a blast and, if you know all their songs, you’ll be hoarse by the end of their set. But, at the end of the day, nothing changes much from concert to concert … not even the between-song banter.
Somewhere during the Old Crow set an older, surlier photographer made a comment that I caught just the tail-end of. He either said “They’re better than this” or “I’m better than this.” The answer to both of those sentimentswas the same, however. “Clearly Not.” If Old Crow were better than doing a clone show in a tiny town, then millions of people wouldn’t be singing along to “Wagon Wheel” right now and thinking it was by Darius freaking Rucker. And, if that photog were better than that festival, well, he wouldn’t have been there. Oh, the egos.
Mumford & Sons finally took the stage just as the sun was sinking down past the stadium, though we’d seen them during the set before when they crashed a few Old Crow songs. The first time I saw them was in 2010 at Beachland Ballroom. They sold out the 500-person capacity room and joked their way through the entire set. Not much has changed in those three years except the size of the crowd. As I bought a pair of Vaccines underwear from the merchandise barn (because, why not?), one of the boys added a sincere moment. Winston Marshall (I think. I was really far from the stage by then and trying to size underwear) told the fans there were a lot of people in America that the band loved “very, very much.” And that there were a few dickheads, too. Whether playing to a crowd of 500 or 50,000, the guys of Mumford know how to make each group of people feel awesome. Even if it’s just knowing to say, “O-H!” and grin when the Ohio crowd screams back the usual reply of, “I-O!” After all these years, they still really get a kick out of that trick.
Their performance was great, too. But it seems pointless to tell you that. At this point, Mumford & Sons have become so famous, so overplayed on the radio, you’ve no doubt already made up your mind about those four mates from London. Either you love them or you hate them. End of story. For me, the answer is love. I can respect a well-informed adverse opinion on the matter, however. So I won’t try to change your mind.
I walked back to my car as the Yacht Club DJs began their cool-down set after Mumford & Sons left the stage. Troy was quiet except for the bands and the revelers and drunks (so it wasn’t very quiet at all). But the town has a peaceful vibe to it and the band has always had a respectful sense to themselves that together kept everyone in check.
Would I do it again? Yes. But do I still absolutely hate festivals? Yes. Would I recommend the experience to anyone that made it this far in my review? Without hesitation, I recommend that you go visit Troy. And I will always tell everyone I meet that Mumford & Sons puts on the best show around and you should witness it once in your life. Whether you decide to hold out for their next stopover tour or settle for their next arena show, that’s up to you. Or, if you decide to wait a decade until the fuss dies down and they’re back to playing places like the Beachland or Bogart’s, I won’t judge you. I already know those gigs will be just as amazing.
The winners of the "Best New Artist" trophy at the most recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, DAAP Girls, will celebrate the debut of their new music video tonight at Japp's Annex on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine.
The spooky, visually arresting clip is for "Molly," one of the many great tracks off of the band's debut album, Tape Songs (every song has a girl's name). Shot at the Kenneweg Compound in Alexandria, Ky., "Molly" was directed by local visual artist Philip LaVelle, alongside graphic designer Josh Jacob and videographer Sean Steininger. The video is mesmerizing and matches up with the lurching, dreamy swagger of the song perfectly. It's fairly low-budget, but doesn't look it, with it's creatively captivating effects and overall vibe.
DAAP Girls guitarist/singer Stuart MacKenzie provided this synopsis of the video:
"The video tells a story of five young people on the cusp of adulthood enjoying a last weekend together. (Unbeknown) to them, they are being viewed by the ghosts of their future's past. The video incorporates aspects of romance, nostalgia and magical realism to tell an alternate, complimentary story to the song."
Tonight's new video celebration at Japp's kicks off at 9 p.m. with a DAAP Girls performance, followed by the screening of the clip at 10 p.m. The band will perform after the screening as well.
Here's a sneak peek of "Molly," followed by the video's creative credits:
Directed by Philip LaVelle
Filmed by Sean Steinger and Josh Jacob
Edited by Sean Steinger, Josh Jacob and Philip LaVelle
Special effects by Josh Jacob
Casting by Erica Turer
Catering by Joe Diedenhofer
Filmmed on location at Kenneweg Compound, Alexandria, KY
Special thanks to Josh and Stephanie Kenneweg
Cast: Cody Reinhard Amir Gamble, Zachary Müller, Sarah Davenport, Rosie Carpenter, Emma Roberts, and Allison Gathof
DAAP Girls is: Jay Duckworth, Stuart MacKenzie, Daniel Peterson, Alex Duckworth, Michael Felger, Collin Thompson, Brian Gilronan.
Those retro/modern/futuristic urban-gothic sonics are perfectly reflected in the brand new video clip for "Oxygen." The ominous video — written by Thomas Stemrich (Director) and Josh Chiara (Director of Photography) of local band Holy Beast — was shot over three days in Northside and Over-the-Rhine.
The nutshell synopsis of the video:
"In New Berlin, in the basements of post-industrial mansions, lost youths pray to shrines for nothing and participate in rituals that don’t matter. But tonight, one of New Berlin’s daughters is through with the minutia, ready to dive beneath the insincerity of cult posturing, and finally awaken the beacon of change that swells beneath the city streets. Will this be another lost night in Neverland or will she finally meet the beast of her dreams?"
Stemrich and Chiara have made other music videos, including "Night Drive" for the local act Polar Sky (Polar Sky and Skeleton Hands both record for locally based Racecar Productions). Sharfe says "Night Drive," and now "Oxygen," are unofficially akin to part of a "series," with the Polar Sky clip setting the "New Berlin" tone initially, and the Skeleton Hands' video taking it further.
"In the New Berlin videos, we see Cincinnati through a dystopic lens," Sharfe says. "Prostitutes, cults, deities, people with holes in their torsos. Strange stuff."
Skeleton Hands are currently taking pre-orders for copies of Gone on vinyl. Click here to get in on the action. "Oxygen" will be available as a single this fall through Racecar. The single release will feature remixes, including ones by Kontravoid and the aforementioned Polar Sky.
The duo also returns to the MidPoint Music Festival this year, coming up towards the end of September in various venues around Over-the-Rhine and Downtown. Skeleton Hands is slated to perform at 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, at MPMF venue Below Zero Lounge (on Walnut Street, next to Emery Theatre). Click here for MPMF tickets (or visit Fountain Square Friday night between 8-11 p.m., where you can buy tickets in person — one night only — for $10-$20 off).
The grand finale of the season-long MidPoint Indie Summer concert series is Friday on Fountain Square. It's always a bittersweet moment — the free series ends for this summer, but that only means that the MidPoint Music Festival is less than one month away.
The MidPoint Indie Summer series concludes just in time to kick off Labor Day weekend this Friday. The show is headlined by internationally beloved/locally based Why?, which is set to release its Golden Ticket EP in a few weeks. The EP is the result of some fan-engaging fun on the group's website.
On the Why? site, frontman Yoni Wolf explains: "We would write a theme song for one customer who came to the … web store and bought something every month. Like Mighty Mouse. It would be a song about that person. We’d read all about them on Facebook and Twitter, and sometimes even go so far as to contact their significant other to ask them questions. Then I would write the song on piano and my brother would take the skeleton of lyrics and piano and turn it into a fully realized arrangement.” (Read more on Why? here.)
(Wolf, by the way, has also been hosting his own very entertaining podcast called The Wandering Wolf (free for download on iTunes and Soundcloud). The show's have been hilarious and insightful, with Wolf chatting with guests like James McNew of Indie Rock legends Yo La Tengo, Cincinnati Hip Hop legend Mr. Dibbs and he and his brother's own father.)
Also at the finale, there will be a one-time only special on tickets to the forthcoming MidPoint Music Festival 2013. Those purchasing tickets in person at the Square Friday can buy three-day passes for $59 ($10 off) and three-day VIP passes for $149 ($20 off). Visit mpmf.com for the latest on the fest and mpmf.cincyticket.com for tickets (if you can’t make it Friday).
On June 4, one of the more beloved bands in Cincinnati (and, increasingly, the rest of the country), Indie Pop greats The Seedy Seeds, announced that they were going on "break" on their Facebook page. The post was worded to suggest this is an "indefinite hiatus" — the words "break up" were not used, but there's no sign of activity from the band on the horizon (fans are also leaving "R.I.P." messages on their Facebook page).
In the "break" announcement that sounds like a "goodbye" one, the trio writes, "While we each have new projects to which we must now turn our energies, it's very hard to imagine how to live any moments from this point on as anything but Seedy Seeds."
Some of those new projects have been making themselves known recently. Seed Margaret Darling has been performing her solo material regularly on the local club front and, yesterday, it was announced she has some touring in her immediate future.
The band Distant Correspondent, described as Indie Dream Pop and featuring members located in different cities around the world, announced that Darling will be joining them on their upcoming fall tour. The supergroup made itself known to the public earlier this year and received a lot of press right off the bat. The band features David Obuchowski from Brooklyn's Goes Cube, the U.K.'s Emily Gray (from British Post Rock crew and John Peel faves Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia), multi-instrumentalist Michael Lengel on drums (whom Obuchowski met when he moved to Colorado) and Seattle bassist Tyler Wilcox, as well as fantastic Indie singer/songwriter Edith Frost (who is not touring with the band this fall).
Here's what Obuchowski had to say about bringing Darling into the fold:
Being in a band with members in different cities and even countries is pretty liberating. Sure, it's not always the easiest thing in the world from a practical standpoint. But the flip-side is that it affords us the opportunity work with musicians we love, even if they don't live close.
With that in mind, we're thrilled to announce that we'll be bringing along Cincinnati-based solo artist, MARGARET DARLING as our featured vocalist for our upcoming record release tour. We're big fans of Margaret's solo work, and her work in the now-defunct Cincinnati indie-pop powerhouse THE SEEDY SEEDS. In fact, when it came time to put together a show in Cincinnati for our record release tour, we asked Margaret Darling to share the bill with us before we tapped any other artist. Margaret's music (as a solo artist and with her former band, The Seedy Seeds) has been described as "dizzying, perplexing and wonderfully fun" (NPR), and "no less than impressive - intimate and addictive" (CincyMusic.com).
Darling is joining the tour as "guest vocalist," beginning on the opening date in Denver on Oct. 23, the day after the band's self-titled album is released through Hot Congress/Old Flame Records. Click here to check out the music video for the Distant Correspondent track "Summit."
Meanwhile, Darling's Seedy Seeds co-founder Mike Ingram has been busy as a road sound technician, but he has found time to work with a new collaborator, great local singer/songwriter/guitarist Jasmine Poole, who works under the name Wonky Tonk.
Ingram (who harmonizes and plays guitar) and Poole have been working on new Wonky Tonk material and, given their hectic schedules, they even created a cyber-concert for fans to check out while they wait for it.
Volbeat has been headlining huge shows in Europe for nearly a decade and now they are bringing their Metal sound to the States. In the position of up-and-comer again, they bring their high level energy to American, which has translated into sold out shows across the country. Currently Volbeat is touring on its new album, Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies.
CityBeat was able to catch up with new band member and former Anthrax lead guitarist Rob Caggiano in preparation for the band's upcoming show in Cincinnati to discuss the transition into a new band and his broad musical influences that have helped him evolve since childhood. He definitely has brings a strong, veteran presence to a band that was already rising to new heights. Check out Volbeat headlining the Rock Allegiance Tour at US Bank Arena this Sunday with HIM, All That Remains and Airbourne.
CityBeat: Could you tell me about the moment in the studio working with Volbeat on their new album that you realized you really could be in the band or it would be a good fit?
Rob Caggiano: They had asked me to be a part of it two weeks into the process of recording. So it was pretty early on into the whole thing. I think it really stemmed from the first meeting we had when they called me initially when I left Anthrax and put the press release out there. A couple days later I flew to Denmark and sat down with Michael and went over the tunes and then ideas for the new record. We ended up collaborating and making music together. It was such a fun vibe and such a great chemistry. I think that was kind of a catalyst for everything else.
CB: I saw you guys at Rock on the Range for the first time playing together. It was really amazing. What was your favorite Rock on the Range moment this year?
RC: We definitely had a really good time during our show. It was a lot of fun. Rock on the Range, to me, is one of the coolest festivals here in the States. It seems like America is catching up finally with what is going on in Europe with these outdoor festivals. Rock on the Range is very well put together, very organized, just very pro and well done. It’s always a good time. I did get a chance to see Lamb of God play, about half their set and that was killer. It was great to see Randy back up on stage.
CB: Has there been any hazing or initiation since you joined the band?
RC: Not really, I was doing all the hazing. It has been pretty cool, pretty seamless, the whole transition. The way it went down, it was very organic and felt very comfortable from the beginning. It has been cool. We are having a blast.
CB: I know it must have been a difficult decision to leave Anthrax which had been your job for the last 12 years. What were the factors for moving on?
RC: I just had this feeling of being stuck. I just felt like I was on a conveyor belt, doing that for so long. I still love those guys dearly and they are like my family. I just wasn’t happy. It got to the point where I just wasn’t happy and I was questioning myself and what I am doing here. What are we doing? What’s going to happen in the future? I just came to the conclusion I needed a change.
I think the main part of the problem was that Anthrax was never a creative outlet for me. By no choice of my own, that was just the way it had been. I think after all those years my heart wasn’t in it anymore and I needed something different. It was definitely an emotional, difficult decision to make but it was something that needed to be done.
CB: What is your favorite guitar solo to play on the new Volbeat record and out on tour?
RC: I have two favorites. I enjoy playing the “Lola Montez” solo and the “Doc Holliday” solo.
CB: I know you have been producing for several years helping out bands and doing Anthrax and Volbeat records. Do you ever see yourself stepping out of Rock or Metal and producing other genres? There are a lot of collaborations happening right now with different genres of music.
RC: Absolutely. I never saw myself as a solely a Metal producer. To be honest, when I am at home, I don’t really listen to Metal. It’s probably because it is what I do all the time. My influences are really varied and I listen to so many different albums and genres of music. I just consider myself a musician. I put 100% of my heart into whatever I am working on. With all these different influences, I can definitely do a lot of different things and have done a lot of different things in the past.
CB: What are you listening to right now? What is influencing you?
RC: My favorite record right now, if we are talking about new bands and newer records, is this band called The National. I think (they're) phenomenal.
CB: They are actually from Cincinnati.
RC: Yeah, it seems like they are doing pretty well all over the world. Their new record is phenomenal. I think it is just great, the production is amazing, the songs are great. I have never met the band. I had heard the name but I had never heard the music. We were doing a record signing in Copenhagen and I asked one of the girls at the store what was her favorite record, what should I check out, what came in that is the new hot record. She said to get the new National record. I said “Ok, I’ll give it a shot.” She was right. I dig it. I like Lana Del Rey too.
CB: Do you ever plan to sit down and write your Rock biography?
RC: Maybe one day down the road. I don’t know if I’m ready yet.
CB: I’m sure you have plenty of stories. What is your craziest tour story with Volbeat right now?
RC: It really isn’t that crazy on the road with these guys. It’s pretty mellow. It is a very focused thing. We do our show … the thing about being on tour, especially with Volbeat, we are headlining a lot of these festivals in Europe so we are going on late. We get there early at these festival sites and have a whole day of nothing. It is kind of boring just waiting to go on stage. Nothing really crazy has happened yet but I will keep you posted.
CB: I am shocked you haven’t seen crazy things at the European festivals with fans.
RC: I guess it depends what you call crazy.
CB: Yeah, your idea of crazy may be different than mine. You may be like, “That’s totally normal.”
CB: What was the name of your first band?
RC: My first band ever was when I was 14 years old. We were called “Wild Heart.”
CB: Do you keep in touch with those guys?
RC: Kind of. I saw the other guitar player recently in Florida. He has been a friend of mine forever. The rest of the guys I have not spoken to in a long time.
CB: Do you play any other instruments?
RC: Yeah, I play drums. I play keys. I do our programming when I need to. I just make noise basically. I can pretty much get anything to sound decent. As a kid, I started out playing drums so that has always been in my heart. I went to the guitar from that.
CB: Your parents were supportive of the drums in the house?
RC: Well they bought them. Yeah, my parents were huge supporters of my music. My Dad is really into the music thing. It was definitely a very healthy atmosphere growing up for creativity and inspiration. There was always music around which was cool.
CB: I started hearing about Volbeat and listening to Volbeat about two years ago when they were just coming to the U.S. Obviously they are huge in Europe, beyond headlining. What do you think is the biggest difference so far in the U.S. shows and the European shows?
RC: In the U.S. it is very much on the rise, the shows over here are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. With them, we did two legs, two U.S. legs and every show was killer. Back in 2010, that is when I first met these guys with my other band, The Damned Things, they took us on tour. That’s when I first heard the music and met the guys and became friends. Even that tour was sold out every night. It was an awesome tour. Volbeat is definitely on the rise in America. In Europe obviously it is crazy. It is just a really good feeling all around. There is a lot of excitement about this band and the new record, just good vibes.
Saturday at Mayday in Northside, the great Cincinnati Indie Rock band Koala Fires will be performing for the last time. But the band is also saying goodbye with a gem of an album, Doom of the Norns, the band's second full-length, which will be officially released tomorrow in conjunction with the show. The Fires will be joined by Chicago's Brighton, MA and Cincy's Jody Stapleton and the Generals. Performers from Cin City Burlesque will also entertain between sets. Doors open at 8 p.m. and admission is $7. (Koala Fires will donate half of their merchandise sales Saturday night to help relocate the women of the Anna-Louise Inn.)
Doom of the Norns is a compelling piece of art, an Indie Pop/Rock record with a hefty emotional weight. Singer/songwriter Matt Mooney's vocals have never sounded better, his honey-dipped instrument crooning the album's up-and-down tales of finding love and losing it. It's not a unique concept, but in Mooney's hands, it feels real, raw, somber and often explosive. (Mooney wrote the record to help him get through the demise of his 10-year marriage.)
Mooney and guitarist Ben Evans play beautifully off of each other, their intertwining fretwork creating a wash of dynamic sound. Drummer Matt Retherford and bassist Matt Zink fuel the songs with precision and a distinctive flair; Retherford's fiery yet intuitive playing, in particular, is a crucial part of the albums success.
But the heart of the album is the passionate songwriting. These are Pop/Rock songs, but Mooney's melodies wind in unexpected directions and the songs themselves are dynamically structured. "Grim is the Doom of the Norns" sets the tone, building with twinkling guitars and Mooney's voice showcasing that early-love "head in the clouds" state of mind, before ripping into a big, exuberant chorus. "Nuckalavee" bops along on a jaunty rhythm, undercut by cutting lyrics like, "Do you want control of me? That might be nice/But after years and years he'll escape one night/He will terrorize, drink tears from your eyes and then scare your pain away."
Mooney may just be one of the best Rock lyricists in town. The powerful "Valley of the Kings" begins with the lines, "There used to be a thousand ways to tear this down and start again/But, now it seems there's just one way and it involves a match and some kerosene." The album gets progressively dark, but the words aren't defeatist — they sound like the kind of lyrics someone would write to come to terms with the ending a long relationship. It's artistic therapy. By the last couple of tracks, there is hope and resolve.
There is emotion to spare on Doom of the Norns, but this ain't no wallowing Emo spew. Mooney delves into his despair and writes about it smartly and poetically, making it the kind of album that would fit in your record collection perfectly alongside LPs by The Afghan Whigs, later Superchunk and Cari Clara.
When you fall in love with Koala Fires after hearing this album (if you aren't already in love with them), don't be too sad. Mooney has a new-direction project in the works, Retherford and Evans play together in the Cincy band House of Feeble Minds and Zink is a member of up-and-comers The Future Strikes. The Fires will burn on. (Click here to purchase the album digitally.)