UC Santa Cruz Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway (pictured here with student reporter Kohar Minassian) paid a visit to the KZSC studios this week. She discusses the makeup of this year’s student body, financial challenges facing our campus and – horses. Listen to our interview here:
With the passing of summer comes a slew of records coming from the some of the biggest names in metal. Converge, Neurosis, Devin Townsend Project, and Deftones all have new albums that sound very promising, but they’re not quite as headbang inducing as Between the Buried and Me’s newest prog masterpiece, Parallax II: Future Sequence. With the continuation of the concept they laid out with last year’s EP (which I thought was worthy of a #4 spot in my Top Ten Records of 2011), they bring many new additions to their already massive reservoir, and at 74 minutes, there’s a whole lot of groundbreaking material to go around. I got a great opportunity to sit down with BTBAM’s bassist and rhythm guitarist to chat a little about their new album, the recent djent craze, and even some Jerry Seinfeld.
Bröötalisk: BTBAM is very well known for combining different musical elements, from blending metalcore and prog to my personal favorite “new wave polka grunge”. You’re the only band that I know of who’ve broken out into full on bar fight metal. Where do you get all these crazy zany ideas, and how hard is it to execute them and flesh them out into a comprehensive song?
[Dustie]: Well, it has to do with our sense of humor.
[Dan]: Yeah, I feel like as serious as the music is, as complex as it is at times, that might be the one time where people really understand that we’re just a bunch of doofuses and to not take us too seriously. Jamie King (album producer) adds a lot to those parts as well. He’s just as goofy as we are. He encourages us. He’s all about it. That’s just kind of a natural part of us too. The goofiness, the quirkiness, in writing or in every day life. It’s just how we are.
Bröötalisk: It seems to me that progressive metal has been gaining extreme popularity over the last few years. What’s your opinion on the direction it’s taking?
[Dan]: It really depends on who it is you’re referring to. The term gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes it’s kind of sad to see it used as more of a genre and less of bands really trying to do something new. There’s a whole group of bands that try to sound like Between the Buried and Me. But are they progressive or just a band that sounds like another band? There’s always going to be great bands that are pushing it and doing new things. The Faceless is one of those bands on this tour right now. They’re fucking phenomenal. I love them. There’s the bigger groups of course; Opeth and Mastodon. They always kind of move further and further from what the public would generally see as being metal, and those bands go way out there. And that’s great. It’s inspiring to see how well they do.
Bröötalisk: What do you think of the whole “djent” phase that everybody’s in right now?
[Dan]: I think it’s a phase, like you said.
[Dustie]: I don’t understand the craze.
[Dan]: Meshuggah’s been around for a long time!
[Dustie]: Yeah but I don’t understand how it’s become it’s own thing. They’re all bands just playing heavy shit. I think people focus too much on trying to classify people. It took me a long time to know exactly what they were talking about. It’s more of a sound then a style.
[Dan]: It’s so silly.
[Dustie]: I heard of thall? It’s like, the sound or something?
Bröötalisk: I think it’s interesting that people are basing their bands around a guitar tone, and not necessarily how the whole thing comes and flows together. Where do you think it’ll end up 5 or 10 years from now?
[Dan]: Oh, I don’t know man. At that time we’ll probably be a progressive bluegrass surfcore band.
[Dustie]: I want to be on tour with String Cheese Incident by then. With Widespread Panic. laughs
[Dan]: Yeah, Paul’s (guitarist) gonna be 42. No, 43 right?
[Dustie]: He’s gonna look like shit. Smell all fucked up.
[Dan]: laughs We’ll see man. No one can tell the future. We’re still gonna be writing weird shit and trying to do something new every record.
[Dustie]: I hope it never ends. I want to continue writing weird shit for the rest of my life.
Bröötalisk: How does The Parallax II continue the concept that was laid out by last year’s EP?
[Dan]: It continues it seamlessly. As far as the story and stuff. Musically it’s something completely new. There’s a couple small things that are very recognizable from the EP that carried over and have a new life. The EP laid the groundwork for the story and it gets pretty wild in this new record.
Bröötalisk: So would you say it’s a lot more different then last year’s EP?
[Dan]: Yeah, we just had more room to do stuff…at 74 minutes!
[Dustie]: It’s a very long record and it’s my personal favorite too so far. There’s a lot going on. We got to do a lot of stuff that we’ve never done. Even going all the way down to guitar tones and different instruments.
[Dan]: Yeah, we got some violin on it. Some tuba. Saxophone. Flute. All kinds of stuff.
Bröötalisk: I remember listening to a preview of the album on Amazon, and when I got to the song Bloom it sounded fucking weird and awesome and…really really cool.
[Dan]: Oh yeah, the Amazon preview is up…I’m curious what it’s actually showing! laughs Just wait till you hear the whole record man.
Bröötalisk: I have to ask, who is the genius behind the Parallax 2 Space Suit?
[Dan]: That was me and Tommy (vocalist). It just seemed so obvious. Why haven’t bands done that before!? We actually just put in our order for our own personal ones today for our crew. We’re gonna make them dress up on stage.
Bröötalisk: Is your new side project Trioscapes just a one off, or are they a more permanent band?
[Dan]: It’s hopefully a permanent thing. We’ve got a tour after I get home from this. I’d like to do more in 2013 and release a new record at some point. That’s one of those things where I feel like we can get together in 2 days and write half a record. That stuff came about very organically. It was just basically Walter (saxophonist) telling me that he wrote these two or three sax melodies, and then I wrote a bunch of different rhythmic variations for them, and working out a lot of different things with the drummer. It’s just a fun new different outlet for me. It’s guys that are into totally different and weird shit.
Bröötalisk: Trioscapes seem very similar to another side project, T.R.A.M. Are you familiar with the band? Did the two bands come together and say, “We should both write random jazzy fusion records!”
[Dan]: It was strange because last year in Europe with Animals as Leaders we were sharing a bus together, and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. And we asked them what they’d been up to, and they said, “Oh, we started a fusion group this summer with a saxophone player! What have you been doing?” And I said, “…I started a fusion group with a saxophone player!” It was very weird, but it’s great because we have a lot of similar influences. Ever since I met Tosin (guitarist for Animals as Leaders) we talked about John McLaughlin (composer for Mahavishnu Orchestra) as being a very big influence. I hope, if anything, to introduce that kind of music to some people who aren’t familiar with it. On the Trioscapes record we actually straight up did a cover of a Mahavishnu Orchestra song, although it’s a way different interpretation of it. Hopefully that will lead people to time travel back to the 70s and see where people actually began being weird. They think it’s weird now? No, go back then. They were crazy.
Bröötalisk: Is it safe to say you and Tosin are BFFs?
[Dan]: Yeah, we’re buds. These guys go back, even before Animals as Leaders.
[Dustie]: My other band, with me and Blake (drummer), toured with them in 2003.
[Dan]: We’ve known those guys for a long time.
[Dustie]: Evan Brewer was in the band with them too.
[Dan]: We’re taking Animals as Leaders to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in November. It never ends. We’re trying to hit the whole world with them. We still gotta go to South America, Africa, gotta get up to Iceland.
[Dustie]: We should play Greenland. Play on a glacier.
Bröötalisk: Finally, just out of curiosity, I ask every single band I interview this: what are some of your favorite bands out there right now?
[Dan]: Well, I’m really excited about the new Faceless record. I love this band called Astra who’s on Metal Blade Imprint. They’re a totally psyched out 70s band. It’s really great.
[Dustie]: I’m not really listening to anything heavy at the moment.
Bröötalisk: I surprisingly get that a lot actually. A lot of people I’ve interview say that they don’t listen to too much metal.
[Dan]: I listen to a lot of Cab Calloway (jazz singer) and old music.
[Dustie]: Anything with Jerry Douglas (resonator guitarist) on it.
[Dan]: The Jerry Seinfeld album was awesome. laughs
[Dustie]: [In his best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation] What…was that? What’s…the deal… Well this guy…
“Sure, sure…fersherrsure,” the boys of North Pacific String Band mumbled enthusiastically when asked to play some more tunes on my show, Pickin on the Porch with Auntie Em, a few weeks back.
The five-piece string band consists of Steven Stubblefield on mandolin and vocals, Jeff Wilson on banjo, Alex Bice on upright bass and vocals, Evan Penza on guitar and vocals, and Jan Purat on fiddle and vocals. All these boys live locally within Santa Cruz County and have played many houseshows, on-campus shows at the UC, and gigs at local music venues. This summer, they packed up and headed out to tour throughout Northern California and Oregon. When they came back to release their debut album “Steak & Eggs” on August 22, I asked them to come hang out on KZSC’s own bluegrass show.
In the times between being gratefully serenaded by the band in the studio, I asked a few questions about the recording & production process and the tour.
All thirteen original tracks were recorded live with two microphones in the Corralitos Grange Hall. This specific place was acceptable to bassist Alex after clapping his hands a bit and recognizing its “sweet wood tones.” And the central coast of California in general provides as North Pacific’s key source of inspiration–what they like to call “central coast ramblin'” with all its trees and ocean and big blue skies.
When I asked about their favorite show played while on tour, I remembered that the best gigs aren’t always planned. They all agreed on a scenic overlook at a truck stop near Manzanita, Oregon. The crowd’s energy was on cue; everyone was feeling NPSB’s impromptu busking. After seeing these boys play more than a few times, I can attest that a spontaneous, outdoor setting that revolves around nature’s beauty is precisely where they flourish most.
Of course, North Pacific String Band did not forget to mention the lasting relationships made and incredible musicianship witnessed at the Northwest String Summit festival put on by Yonder Mountain String Band in Oregon. One can only imagine the plethora of amazing stringy sounds heard that weekend in August. And get this–NPSB played music on top of the Further tour bus. Cool?! I’d say these boys have their priorities set straight.
Back in the air-room at KZSC, North Pacific played a few songs they worked on while on the road called “Goin’ to the West” and “Big South Skies.” Then they got down to their song “Murphy” (track 2 on “Steak & Eggs”) with more elongated notes and gritty, bluesy chops. They slowed it down to the point where it sounded like their instruments were talking to each other (which I’ve noticed these boys do a lot–they work together beautifully). They built up the tension little by little then picked it up again with some groovin’ guitar slaps, sweet harmonic fiddle/banjo duo, delicate mando chopping, and finished it off with Alex’s heavy bass punctuation.
Stevee, Jeff, Alex, Jan, and Evan have been playing together for a while, have had time to experience lasting memories, and are individually pretty damn funny characters themselves. North Pacific String Band incorporates a “prograssive” sound to their bluegrass–and sometimes jazzy–roots, making sure to give each member solo time to shine, while keeping a youthful humor that the audience utilizes in its own stomp and clap. Their sound is coherent, tight, and undeniably heartfelt; you can really hear the feeling in the melodies and accompanying harmonies.
Check out North Pacific String Band for more information, merch, and show dates at northpacificcompany.org!
Every now and then, a band comes along that just blows everyone out of the water with each musical piece that they write. Right now, that band is The Contortionist. I recently got a chance to sit down (or rather, stand up) with their lead singer, Jonathan Carpenter, to talk about their newest release, Intrinsic.
Bröötalisk: Alright, let’s cut to the chase. Intrinsic is, to say the least, a powerful record. Can you give me your though process behind the transition from Exoplanet to Intrinsic? What did you want to accomplish with this record?
Jonathan Carpenter: When we did Exoplanet, we went with the space vibe and that was something that I think, even before I was in the band, was a goal for the end result to be a sci fi type of story. With this album, we had to make a choice of where to go. It’s kind of like a novel style of music. I think we just kept the elements that makes us different and stand out and what we’re good at and finally carved out all the shit we just didn’t want to do anymore. Kinda made a new sound that represents what we enjoy playing live and what we can play live well. We wanted to push ourselves further and know that we’re getting better at writing music and performing it. We tried to get our wide range of sound in the new album and diversified it. Keyboards are definitely more pronounced this record, but they also don’t take over the album. I think overall we’re really pleased with how production and our concepts turned out.
Bröötalisk: Where Exoplanet was about the destruction of our homeworld and our search for a new one, Intrinsic is more about the human mind and how we interpret reality. What inspired you to write such a complex album? Are these kinds of thought provoking themes something you plan to do with later records?
Jonathan Carpenter: There a bunch of books that I’ve read, mostly science, not necessarily science fiction, that talk about topics that are still being discovered, like neuroanatomy and different biotechnologies that are discussed on the album as far as story goes. Reading books like that inspired me to talk about things that could happen in the future. Things that could really change our daily lives and experiences of reality.
Bröötalisk: Misha Mansoor of Periphery mentioned that Intrinsic is more of a “grower album”. That is, you have to listen to it multiple times before you really understand and appreciate the record. Is that something you were going for with Intrinsic?
Jonathan Carpenter: No, I don’t think that necessarily motivated us. But we didn’t really have a goal to make music that could easily be understood either. We would ask ourselves, “Do we feel like these songs are any more commercial or simplified that represents pop music or anything that’s not thought provoking?” We still feel like the sounds and everything are very interesting and that they break expectations.
Bröötalisk: Speaking of Misha, he always speaks very highly of your band. Is it safe to say that The Contortionist and Periphery and are BFFs?
Jonathan Carpenter: Haha yeah, that’s a good term to describe it. Whenever we’ve toured with them, things were amazing. We got along really well. Buddying up with everybody in the tour. That was an amazing tour in general, but Periphery was definitely great to us. It was a lot of fun.
Bröötalisk: Is that when you first met the band?
Jonathan Carpenter: We had played one show with them before that, and it was just a one off day where two tours got combined randomly. It wasn’t expected. We were the first band to play out of 10 bands, so we played in front of like 15 people. They were one of the coheadliners. So yeah, we met them there, and a year later we toured together.
Bröötalisk: Many people have been speculating that Periphery and you guys might tour together some time soon. Is there any info you can give out on this?
Jonathan Carpenter: We don’t have anything solidified right now, but there have been talks between their manager and ours. Summer Slaughter was definitely something we tried to be in the running for, and unfortunately it didn’t work out this year. But who knows, maybe next year we’ll get that.
Bröötalisk:A little more off topic, I’m what you might call a vinyl enthusiast, so when I saw that Intrinsic wasn’t being pressed on vinyl, I was disappointed. Are there any future plans to release the album on vinyl?
Jonathan Carpenter: I’d imagine that’s very likely that will happen. The reason we just released a CD is because we wanted to focus on just getting it out there and then maybe later on do some secondary things and spice things up.
Bröötalisk: So, every time I mention that I listen to The Contortionist, almost every one seems to think I’m talking about something Cirque de Soleil. This made me wonder, where did you get the name “The Contortionist” from?
Jonathan Carpenter: I’m pretty sure that that originated from Joey, our drummer. I don’t know all the reasons for it. I think it’s kind of a mixture between sounding fucking awesome and the fact that we change our sound a lot. But I’m not really sure, it wasn’t me. I would say that it’s basically those two things. You know how it is when you have to pick out a name.
Bröötalisk: What are some of your favorite bands out there right now?
Jonathan Carpenter: There’s a lot of lighter stuff that have nothing to do with metal that I like to listen to, Deerhunter, Minus the Bear. I really like Wild Beasts a lot. As far as metal goes, the newest Textures album is still really sick, I like to jam that out. I also like Last Chance to Reason, busting out Level 2 never gets old. The new Periphery was also really awesome, I liked that. Other than that, I haven’t really been listening to music because I’ve been so busy finishing up recording. But now that that’s over, I’m starting to get back into the cycle again.
Set your alarm early Saturday morning to hear a special honoring Johnny Cash. “The Man in
Black” recorded some of the greatest early rock & roll records for the Sun label, followed by more hits for Columbia as a country star. You’ll learn the truth about some of Johnny’s #1 Hits and have a chance to win a copy of the newly release “Number Ones” compilation. Your Wednesday aloha DJ Lani B. will gallop roaring out the chute at 6 am this Saturday as we whoop ‘n holler with Cash in hand on KZSC.