Friday, 23 November 2012

Interview with ICHABOD

Ichabod is a rock band from Lowell, Massachusetts formed in 1998.  Their latest album Dreamscapes from Dead Space was released October 9 of this year and you can find it on their bandcamp page.  It's their fifth full length album and it has been one of the true highlights of the year (review here).  I've been listening to it for well over a month with no let up in sight.  Each song is a trip, a spiritual journey and a roller coaster ride of doubts and paranoia.   There's enough going on musically to keep even the most fickle listener interested but it's those catchy hooks that will bring you back every time.

It's also their first album to feature high energy second guitarist Jay Adam and new vocalist John Fadden whose presence is often striking because of the sweeping changes in vocal delivery within the songs.

I was fortunate enough to ask the band a bunch of questions and have them answered by band leader and guitarist Dave Iverson, bassist Greg Dellaria and John Fadden.  I asked questions about the past, the present and the future and I wanted to get a sense of what influences help shape the worldview and soundscape of Ichabod.

1. From everything I’ve read the new record has been extremely well received. Are you pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction? Because in a lot of ways it is a very different kind of record.

Greg-. I am very happy with the response. We wanted to create this time around a bit of a more straight forward rock approach and the inclusion of John helped us out tremendously.

Dave-We’ve always been fortunate enough to have gotten pretty good critical acclaim; however, that’s never translated into great commercial success of any kind. I agree, it’s a “different kind of record,” and that we’re a different type of band. Sometimes, critics love challenging music but fans find it frustrating to not be able to pigeonhole a band’s sound. We’re pretty rooted in styles that everyone is familiar with, but it’s our presentation and blend thereof that sometimes surprises people. “Stoner, doom, metal, psych, sludge, etc.” doesn’t really matter eh? At the basest level, we’re a rock band I reckon.

2. There has been an expansion of styles from the last one from a pretty much straight forward sludge/stoner sound to incorporate a more expansive psychedelic rock sound. How smooth was this transition within the band? I understand there was some resistance to this change and that this led to Ken MacKay. Is that correct?

Dave- Yeah, Ken was getting frustrated it seemed. I think he had wanted to go in a slightly different direction than the rest of us. He’s a great guy and still our dear friend though, no hard feelings. We were pushing him to do things that he just wasn’t within his personal comfort zone doing, and we totally relate and respect that.

3. “2012 Outro” was a really spooky finish to the last album. You used samples of Jordan Maxwell and Alex Jones on the track. Are you guys fans of Alex Jones?

Dave- We’re big fans of Alex and Jordan; really, we’re big proponents of podcasts like the Joe Rogan experience, Coast to Coast AM, Psychedelic Salon, Hour of the Time, Conversation for Exploration, etc., on which those guys are frequent guests. We get a lot of lyrical/conceptual ideas from such sources.

4. Speaking of outros, “Return of the Hag” has a nice gypsy feel to it. Of course, when I hear flute in rock music I think Jethro Tull. What (other?) influences were floating around when you were making this record?

Greg- Return Of The Hag just came out of nowhere. At practice we just started jamming and there it was. We liked it so much that in the studio, we did a longer version of it for the outro. We played a shorter version to open up the set of our live shows a couple of times also. It was rather fun to see the look on people's face's when we did it. They were not expecting that at all.

Dave- By “gypsy” do you mean like hippy/jam rock? Funny, because it’s really just a reprise of the verse riff in Baba Yaga, done in a slow-burn, funkified manner. We wanted to groove it out a little and just have fun with the improv aspect of it. We know an amazing flautist, Bonnie Rovics, and a monsterous hand-drummer, Andy Kaknes, and decided to bring them in on things to round out the jam and make it real ear-candy. Jethro Tull is awesome, though they’re just a grain of sand on the beach of our influences.

5. What non-musical influences (books, movies, life events, etc.) found their way into the writing and recording of Dreamscapes from Dead Space?

Dave-We all love bands you’d expect, like Down, Acid Bath, Kyuss, Cavity, Sleep, Cough, etc…but we equally love stuff like Sunny Day Real Estate and Texas is the Reason, and classic rock like Sabbath, the Stones, Doors, Cream, etc., and shoegaze like early Verve and My Bloody Valentine, and classic metal, 90’s grunge stuff, old school hardcore/punk, psych like Wooden Shjips, Black Angels, Hawkwind, etc….we’re really all over the map with what we like, and it all seeps through somehow. But for non-musical, more from John on that….

John ~ I spend hours reading and watching a combo of world news, conspiracy videos, documentaries and The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Shit I even thank Joe Rogan on the album, ha! I've also read books written by everyone from Nietzsche to Lao Tzu to Aleister Crowley and Terrence McKenna so I have absorbed a variety of different perspectives and observations of this life and I've tried my best still to bring my own views and experience to the fold. A lot of these inspiration made their way onto the notebook with the help of the rest of the guys in the band and the music which they had created and some high grade marijuana.

Greg - Music, movies, and a bit of gaming helps out a bit also.

6. “Baba Yaga” is one of those songs I find myself singing at work and while I’m singing it, I’m thinking about the Hellboy comic with the Baba Yaga counting the fingers of dead children sticking up out of the ground. Are any of you guys comics fans?

Dave-I worked as a comics manager at a store while in college. I love comics, but don’t have much time to follow ‘em these days. I’ve never really been a Hellboy guy, although I did enjoy the movie. Baba Yaga was taken more from the classic European folk tale, merged with elements of what is called “Old Hag” syndrome these days.

Greg- I was a big fan of Frank Miller and Dave was an avid collector. The world of Psychotronic movies always plays into my musical influences. When ever I'm sitting on my couch, watching a movie , I always have my bass with me practicing and what not.

7. I swear it took me five plays or so before I realized that the song “108” was not a duet! I say that because it illustrates how broad John’s range is. It’s a truly impressive vocal performance throughout the whole record. How did you find him? Did you know of him from before?

John ~ Oh stop it, I'm blushing! Thanks.

Greg - He has been a friend of the band for many years, even before I was in the band.

Dave-John’s an old friend. His old band Flatbed used to jam down the hall from us, and let’s just say that the drinking wasn’t contained to just one room or the other! There was some cross pollination going on!

8. What do you think John Fadden brings to the band?

Dave-His pipes, enthusiasm, and lyrical bent, along with our solid foundation in friendship made him the IDEAL replacement for Ken. It was seamless. He seems like he’s always belonged. The same is true verbatim with Jay Adam on second guitar.

9. John, there’s such emotional depth in the vocal performance and the lyrics are often like an exposed nerve. Are you comfortable being this honest and open?

John ~ I'd say I'm more than comfortable with being as honest and open as I am. I don't have much of a filter when it comes to making my opinions known and I know that sometimes comes with a price. I love listening to bands who tell fantastic stories of dragons, wizards, and demons but that's their escape and what they want the listener to be swept away into while they listen. I want people to listen to what I say and question their own motivations and opinions on the things I talk about. I won't lie though songs like "Baba Yaga" are fun as hell to play because I can almost step back from myself and just rock the fuck out.

10. I understand Ichabod has already started working on a new record (full-length or EP?), which is a surprise because the band has always taken a couple years off between records. Are the ideas just flowing now or were you guys backlogged with older material like “All Your Love”?

John~ Dreamscapes and the next album "Merrimack" were already partially recorded when Jay and I was asked to join the band. We've been working on these 2 projects since day one. For me DSfDS came easier to write because it was "Ichabod" from start to finish sans 108 of course. In the last few months started working on 5 or 6 new songs that all of us have collaborated on and that's going to come out late 2013/early 2014 but we haven't even thought of booking recording time for it yet.

11. I know it’s early, but what might we expect from the next record in terms of sound or theme?

John ~ 'Merrimack' is a "concept" album in spirit. It's their [our] tribute to the river and the spot of land we all have known and loved all our lives. Lowell, Massachusetts has a very special place in American History and in our hearts. There's definitely the signature Ichabod sound all over it but it definitely takes some musical risks that even Dreamscapes doesn't. I don't wanna give too much of it away, and if you read into that as we're going commercial boy are you wrong, 9 minute songs aren't very terrestrial radio fan friendly.

12. In classical music a composer is said to reach his “mature” period after 15 years of writing and performing. Do you guys feel that Ichabod is entering its “mature” period where it’s now easier to write or less difficult to say the things you want to say with the music?

Greg - Yes I do. Over the past year, the chemistry has been overwhelming. Aside from Merrimack, we have the framework for 6 new songs. The band has new life now and I am very happy about it.

Dave- I never thought of it this way, but I guess it’s true. We’ve certainly matured a long way since our inception. It seems easier than ever to communicate…sometimes it’s eerie, like there’s telepathy going on in the jam room!

13. Well, while we’re waiting for the new record to come out Dreamscapes from Dead Space is still very much fresh in our minds. Are there any plans in the works for a vinyl release of the album?

It's coming sooner rather than later. We have a lot of artwork left over that we want to share with people so a vinyl release will allow us to get that out there. Michael Kent is fantastic artist and a dear friend, we can't thank him enough for his visual contributions.

Greg - The only thing that is really selling no these days is Vinyl and mp3's. Vinyl for the collectors and mp3's for the more casual listeners. So I think it's a good idea to stay ahead of the game.

14. Dave, when you started Ichabod did you expect it to turn into a lifelong commitment?

Dave-No sir…we’ve always just taken it one album at a time, and focused on what’s next each time. I think that constant eye to the future is what has kept us around for so long. Lifelong is a relative term and I don’t want to jinx anything by getting into what the parameters for lifelong may consist of. But we’re still having fun and creating great art, so the train will keep rolling.

15. Do you think the internet has helped your band in terms of longevity?

Dave- I don’t know about the longevity part, but it’s definitely helped to facilitate communications with all facets of the industry, even each other. Email/texts have been glue for us. Getting show offers, reviews, etc. has been made much more efficient by means of the internet.

16. Are you wary of the internet’s longterm effect on the music industry in general?

John~ I'm not wary of it at all. Oh no! someone can download my album for free..pffft...GOOD is what I say. Yeah it sucks that we put up our money to record and press records but if we didn't love making the music and want to share it with people we wouldn't even do that much. For every person that downloads a free copy and shares it with their friends you inevitably sell a few, it's give and take. The internet is like "tape trading" on steroids but it doesn't make your balls shrink. I don't argue with musicians who see it differently and I don't try and sway them into my way of thinking, I'm too old for that shit and I don't care enough.

Greg- No. I see tons of people crying over it. Things change and you have to evolve. It has opened doors that we never had before. But with everything comes with a price, good or bad.

17. With so many great bands from the Boston / New England area playing in the stoner doom genre is there competition for venues and such or is there enough pie to go around?

John~ It's tough sometimes because some bands just get breaks that others don't but there's plenty to go around in Boston. You're always gonna say "why the fuck did those dudes get that show" or something to that effect but you don't mean it derogatorily. I love going to see a national headliner and your friends are opening the show almost as much as I would if we were the openers.

Dave-I hate “battle of the bands” mentalities on the part of some. We’re a tight network of bands that are always going out of our way to help each other AND out of state bands alike. I wouldn’t trade the New England music scene for any other. Great people abound. We raz our friends playfully when they get shows we’d have liked to be on.

Greg- There is an old joke in Boston on how many bands does it take to screw in a light bulb. One to screw the light bulb in and a bunch of other bands standing around saying how did they get that gig? You get out of it what you put into it. Being bitter about it will get you nowhere.

18. Got any shows lined up? 

We're headlining the Middle East upstairs in Cambridge, MA. on 12/14 with some killer bands: The Force, Das Muerte, Mammothor, and Frostbite. It's gonna be rad!

Ichabod, The Force, Das Muerte, Mammothor and Frostbite - Live at Middle East Upstairs

19. What are your favorite records right now?

John ~ Graveyard ~ Light's Out / Lord Fowl ~ Moon Queen / The Sword ~ Apocryphon

Greg- Pallbearer- Sorrow And Extinction
Dead Can Dance- Anastasis
My Dying Bride-A Map Of All Our Failures
Evoken- Atra Mors

Dave- Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers/ Electric Wizard-Black Masses

20. Thanks a lot for taking the time to hang out and answer so many of my damn questions. Dreamscapes from Dead Space is a killer record and I can’t wait to hear the follow up. But before you go, any parting words?

John ~ Thanks for wanting to talk to us

Connect with Ichabod:

Also, here's a great track by track rundown with John on Reverbnation here

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