Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Paranoid / Sludeglord Tag Team Interview with Beelzefuzz, Part 1

Steve, from the impeccable Sludgelord site and I had a good time doing our recent tag team interview with Borracho [part 1][part 2] and so we wanted to keep it going.  Hopefully, this will be a fairly regular thing moving forward.  No promises, but expect to see more of these in the future.  

I asked Steve who he'd like to interview next and without hesitation he suggested Beelzefuzz.  Needless to say I jumped on board in a heartbeat, it was an excellent choice.  I reviewed their debut album right here and it's become a behemoth here at the Paranoid Compound, one of my steadier go-to albums.  Before we dive into this thing I'd just like to give a massive thank you to Dana Ortt and Darin McCloskey of Beelzefuzz for doing this and Steve Howe for setting it all up!!  Part 2 of the interview will be posted to The Sludgelord site in the next couple days, I'll set the link up at the bottom of the page when it gets posted.

1. Lucas - Hi guys, can you give me a little idea of your respective musical backgrounds? What bands or projects were you involved with before Beelzefuzz and how this might have contributed to the band’s distinctive sound?

Darin, Dana & Pug.
Dana: Man, I’ve played in a few different bands over the years, they all sounded distinctively terrible! Haha! I started out playing Black Sabbath covers in a band with friends from high school. That band morphed into a group called Hallowed Cain with my friend Pat on bass, who has made the “Lotus Jam” and “Reborn” videos for Beelzefuzz. From there I played with a Baltimore band called Dead Man Sway. I always wanted to sing lead, but my voice at that time was just downright bad, not that it’s improved that much, but, man, back then it was really bad, haha. I had a lot of songs written, but couldn't find anyone that was interested in playing them. Can’t say as I really blame them, I had plenty of ideas but my execution of those ideas just sucked. I met Pug a few years ago and he liked the songs and encouraged me to slow down the tempos, make some changes. When Darin came into the band, I think the sound developed an identifiable, original characteristic to it.

Darin: In addition to Beelzefuzz I also play in a band from PA called Pale Divine, a bit more of a traditional "doom metal" band than Beelzefuzz and I also contribute to various other projects from time to time such as; Origin Konrad, Crowned in Earth and Falcon. Basically, I guess each project allowed me to concentrate for a time on a particular distinct musical vibe, from "retro 70's" to "NWOBHM" inspired heavy metal to "progressive doom/rock" that I've always had a desire to explore. Interestingly enough, upon joining Beelzefuzz I found a situation that basically incorporated all these different styles into one unique musical presentation. It's really great to be playing along side Dana and Pug.

'Beelzefuzz' album cover.  Artwork by Brian Tutlo.
2. Steve - The album has been released a few months now. Won praise all over the place. Are you happy with the positive responses so far. Have you had any negative feedback from the album. And how do you deal with negative reviews.

Dana: The response has been great! Really can’t thank everyone enough for the kind words and cool reviews. A lot of the reviews have been written in another language, so I’m not sure if its really negative or not, ha! Some things just get lost in the translation. There was one review that straight up said “the vocals sound like shit”, but, hey, you can’t please everybody. That guy is probably my neighbor who is tired of hearing Beelzefuzz practice every Thursday, his words are justified.

Darin: Since our label is based in Germany most of the promotion pretty much resided overseas. Many of the reviews we read were in foreign languages so yeah, like Dana said sometimes the translation ranged from bitter to amusing but basically overall the reviews have been really favorable. I guess the biggest compliment I've read in many reviews is that we're "unique" or that we remind people of some of the bands that inspired us in the first place. Being "pigeon-holed" intro part of a trend is never very good as you're life span is contingent on that of the trend itself. Hopefully, something that people perceive as "unique" will allow us to stick around longer than some of the current "buzz bands" that are receiving quite a bit of attention and focus these days because I think there's going to be a lot of really interesting musical developments from us in the future. I think this album is just us "getting our feet wet" so to speak.

3. I’ve read other interviews with the band and it sounds like you make great use of effects pedals, running a virtual tap dance on stage. Can you give me an idea of the set up? How many different pedals and effects will you use during a given show?

Dana: I do have a number of effects and switching going on while we are playing live. I have a 3 amp setup. 2 amps are for distortion in an attempt to simulate a 2 guitar band. 1 amp has a POG effect going through it to simulate an organ sound. Also running a Digitech effects pedal for the vocals that provides a lower harmony based on the guitar chords being played. The vocal effects pedal “reads” the guitar chords a bit slowly, so, the slower the tempo the better, great for “doomin out”, I guess, haha. I’d prefer to have someone doing vocal harmonies, another guitar player and an organ player, but, that would make travelling a lot more expensive for sure. I am definitely tap dancing on pedals when we play live, I’m getting better at it, I don’t really have to look down at the pedalboard, that is, until I hit a wrong button and all kinds of tonal chaos ensues, haha. I would like to incorporate more grandiose, Dio- like gestures while we are playing, maybe one day, haha.

4. You recently played in Germany at at the Hammer Of Doom 8 Festival and a warm-up show as well. How did those both dates go down with the German Stoner/Doom Fans.

Dana: Man, it was an unbelievable experience! Great times indeed. Definitely a big thanks to Oliver Weinsheimer for inviting us to play. Our Church Within label owner, Oli Richling made the trip happen. Oli is a true man of his word and a great dude indeed. The trip was very enlightening, great to see doom/stoner style of music is appreciated so much over there.

Darin: YES! much thanks and praise to Oli at The Church Within and Oliver at Hammer of Doom for making it happen. It was a great experience expanding our live audience at least 10 times what we'd normally play to at home. Obviously the best thing any band can hope for from a live situation is to play for as many people as possible...Hammer of Doom gave us that opportunity. The response was also great and we're really appreciate that as well!

Darin & Dana.
5. So the album is eight tracks long and they’re all great, but I happen to know that there are a decent handful of other songs lying around. Are there any plans at this point to release them, even as they now stand in demo form?

Dana: Yes indeed, some of those songs will find there way onto the next album, maybe in a different arrangement in some cases. We had actually planned on having “Peace Mind” and another song called “No Life” on the first release, but, we were a bit low on money and time, decided to just focus on 8 and save the other songs for the next release. We are tweaking the arrangements to several songs right now in anticipation of going into the studio this summer.

Darin: Yeah, plus we wanted to make sure we kept the overall length of the album "vinyl friendly." The eight songs take up just the right amount of time to allow for this. Regarding other songs, there are definitely some songs that are part of our live set that didn't make it to the album that will most likely make it to the next one. So, if there's a particular song you have in mind then chances are pretty good you'll hear it on the next album I think.

"Peace Mind" live at Days of the Doomed III.

6. Do you have any more plans to tour Europe in the near future. As you guys have a lot buzz within the European Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal Scene.

Dana: We would love to go back over, maybe do a 2 week jaunt based around a festival appearance this summer. We don’t have definite plans as of yet, but it is being discussed. 

7. It looks to me like the band is fairly spread out geographically. Does this make it hard to jam and work out new material, or is it all coming from one guy? How does that work?

Pug Kirby.
Dana: We jam at my house in Northeast M.D., about 30 mins away from Pug in Delaware and 45 mins away from Darin in P.A. , because we are in different states, it probably sounds further away than it actually is, haha. I usually have the outline to a song, when Pug and Darin come down, we jam it out, adjust the tempo and arrangements. I try not to have my mind set on only one way to play or present the song. Sometimes I’ll just have a vague melody and will play it for them, if they dig it we’ll peruse it further, if not, I know not to spend more time developing a song they don’t dig in the first place. As far as recording our practices or working out things online, we don’t do any of that. If the riff or song isn't memorable enough to play at the next practice, it probably wasn't that good anyway.

Darin: Yeah, the distance may seem like a obstacle but in reality it's probably a lot less travel than a lot of other bands...it's never been a problem. New songs will definitely generate from an idea that Dana brings to practice...he'll usually introduce a riff and we'll just start jamming on it. Pug does his thing, I'll do mine and together we just let it take shape. Gradually as it comes together Dana will introduce a vocal melody line and once the structure is more or less pretty well established the lyrics will be penned out as typically one of the last things.

Photo by Kesha Atwood Nyman.
8. Are there any plans at all to release the album on Vinyl. As it would make a fucking great sounding record. Have any labels spoke to you about putting the album on Vinyl.

Dana: Thanks, man! We have no definite plans for a vinyl release as of yet, but, based on the positive reaction and feedback, that very well could change. The songs were mixed in anticipation for a vinyl release by Richard Whittaker who did an excellent job mixing and mastering the album. I think our label Church Within will be interested putting out a vinyl release of the album once there is a great enough demand for it to justify the costs of the production.

Darin: Vinyl was one of the things we discussed early on with Church Within. I'm not sure what the timeline will be but as far as what we've discussed with Oli, it is expected to happen hopefully in the very near future. As Dana said the mastering by Richard Whittaker is definitely conducive to the vinyl release as well as the overall length of the album.

You can find 'Beelzefuzz' on CD at The Church Within Records web shop.

You can find Beelzefuzz on facebook.

Read Part 2 Here

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