Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Monkeywrench surfaces after 15 years in Seattle -- worth the wait

The Monkeywrench (All Cat photos)

The Monkeywrench oozed and bloozed out their first show in 15 years -- and it was killer.

Sirs Tim Kerr, Mark Arm, Tom Price, Martin Bland and Steve Turner packed punters into the Crocodile in Seattle on Thursday night for the 25th anniversary Crockshock extravaganza that also featured The Gallow Swings and Sir Coyler  & His Asthmatic Band.

Since the 'Wrench's London and Manchester shows have been canceled, devotees might have to wait another 15 years for their next gig. Consider yourselves stoked, Seattle!

Here's Cat Rose's photos:




Friday, April 22, 2016

Demon Eye and Disenchanter plow Portland

Demon Eye (All Cat Rose photos)

Demon Eye and Disenchanter hammered out the doom, prog and rip-roaring rock in their opening slots for Holy Grove last Friday at the High Water Mark Lounge in Portland.

Here's some Cat Rose photos as they show 'em what's up.



Monday, April 18, 2016

Hanging and rocking with Holy Grove | Interview

Holy Grove's Gregg Emley. (All Cat Rose photos)

Andy, text; Cat Rose, photos

Gregg Emley's hands threatened to rip his bass strings to shreds while whipping his hair, skyrocketing it toward the ceiling.

Andrea Vidal's vocals soared mightily as she formed one hand into a fist, gripped the microphone stand with the other, stomped one foot and lunged toward the crowd.

Trent Jacobs' fingers moved along his six-string fretboard with ease as he knocked out riffs and solos galore, using his throng of pedals to full effect.

And drummer Adam Jelsing laid down the monstrous backbeat with head bobbing at every twist and turn of Holy Grove's mammoth-sounding offerings that took both band and crowd on a journey through the lands of stoner rock, psych, doom and beyond last Friday night at the High Water Mark Lounge in Portland.

It was Holy Grove's debut album-release hometown gig and the quartet was in full-tilt firestormer mode. (Oh, and the stage smoke didn't stand a chance as the band's tunes burned it into submission.)

Andrea Vidal and Trent Jacobs.

The self-produced platter -- with assistance from heavy-hitting engineer Billy Anderson -- has been unleashed on Heavy Psych Sounds out of Italy, the 4-year-old band  will rage at the Psycho Las Vegas Fest in August and has a fall European tour on its docket. It's safe to say that the folks in the Holy Grove camp are on a high: Emley says it's rewarding and he's excited to see what happens next. They've got new songs and new paths to traverse.

Seated at Genies Too cafe in Portland for brunch the day after they pummeled the High Water Mark, Emley and Vidal fielded a few questions while sipping on Bloody Marys prior to ordering their well-deserved meals. Later, they'd give the pinball machines a whirl across the street at Quarterworld.

* What was the definitive moment for you guys, hearing either a band or seeing a band that got you to where you are today?

Vidal: I'd been listening and going to live shows for years and years and years since I was a kid. And it wasn't until I saw Blood Ceremony and the band Ghost six years ago that the light bulb went on and I was like, 'I can do this. I can do what they're doing.'  I wanted to look at the crowd and how the crowd responded and interacted and were just so fired up. I wanted to feel that energy instead of being in it. I wanted to receive it. And then it wasn't like two days later after that show that I decided then and there that I was going to find my band.

Emley: Black Sabbath is obviously my all-time favorite band and I remember the very first time I heard them and my cousin played me 'Paranoid' over the phone and I was mystified already, so I went out and got the record. I was like 14-15 and I knew from then on, really, that I had to play music and be involved in music. That was definitely the record that made me want to pick up bass, that and hearing Metallica for the first time. I have distinct memories of hearing 'Master of Puppets' for the first time and I was like, 'Oh, bass guitar.'

Adam Jelsing

* What are you guys trying to convey musically and lyrically?

Vidal: I wanna give people an escapism. I want people to say, 'I'm going out to go to a show, and I'm going to forget pretty much about everything that maybe has been weighing me down for the week.' I wanna give people that sense of, 'Goddamn, I'm glad I didn't say home.' I think that the lyrical content really matches the music, because the music builds and there are moments of  hills and valleys, and that's why I think that I can be more creative and actually tell a story or really use my personal tastes in folklore and fantasy and can make it maybe a little bit more accessible and still keep people (guessing) what's coming next. I want a level of unpredictability, but I want people to know that they're in good hands.

* What's the theme that people are gonna get out of it, how they can relate that to (their lives)?

Vidal: I guess the theme that I'd like people to be able to relate is what matters is what's happening now.  What you're doing now.  Whether it's just coming out to a rock show or doing something that makes you feel good -- makes it feel right -- I have been given a platform that not many people (have) and I'm up there for myself, but I'm up there for myself because it's important that I can connect with the people that have come to see me and the band. So I really just want people to leave with like a feeling like, if this is the highlight of their day or whatever, music saved my life and I want the people seeing our show to feel like, 'Goddamn, I'm gonna go out and kick ass tomorrow.'

* (To Emley) You wrote these songs, you're kind of the guiding force from the beginning to where you're at now. What does this music mean to you. What were you hoping to convey when you were writing these tunes?

Emley: We just had zero expectations. I've struggled for a long time to find the right people to play in a band with and I had laid out of playing in bands for six or seven years prior to this band just cuz I was so frustrated. The process of finding people, and then I think I just wanted to write songs that we were all proud of. The fact that we've had the opportunity to do more with the band than I ever anticipated or expected ... I remember thinking it would be cool if we could play a couple shows and play with bands that we like, and we've been able to do much more than that, which has been surprising and awesome.

* The album's out now, you guys have been working on this (since November 2013)...

Emley: When we got the records in the mail, when Trent got 'em at his house, we're like, 'Don't open 'em, dude! You're not allowed to open that box. Bring it to band practice and we're all gonna open it together.'

Vidal: We were like, 'Tape your fingers!'

Emley: He didn't know if he could hold out, but he did. Just to see that box of records finally in front of us after all this fucking hard work ...

Vidal: The thing that I'm really happy with is, we've been listening to this record for years, because it's been done for years, and we can still listen to it. And that is a common thread I think with the people that have listened to the record and bought the record. They've all been like, 'This is (on) infinite repeat. I've been listening to it all week.' And that's pretty wonderful.

* Just us knowing you guys, you're very methodical and patient and wanting to wait for that right moment to happen. So, for that to happen now, where do you go now?

Emley: We're hoping to make the most of any opportunity, obviously. The fact that we got asked to play that Psycho Las Vegas show, I mean ... when that email came into the inbox, that was something I never dreamed of.

Vidal with Uta Plotkin.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Meet the sludgy Swedes, Monolord / Interview

Monolord crush Austin. (Andy photo)

By Andy


While driving down the highway the other day, I was cranking some Monolord and periodically glancing up at the clouds in the sky. For an instant, I envisioned turning those weak, puffy billows into 1,000-foot-high amplifiers with mammoth boulders for knobs and cranking the Swedish stoner/doom/fuzz rock to the masses.

It would be perfect, right?

We witnessed the powerhouse from Gothenburg last November at the Elysium in Austin during a nighttime ripper of a gig as part of Fun Fun Fun Fest. It was our first taste of the sludge trio and we were floored to say the least.

The men behind the magic are Thomas V Jäger (guitars and vocals), Esben Willems (drums) and Mika Häkki (bass) and they've got a pair of pulverizing albums out on the RidingEasy imprint.

"I met Thomas on Instagram when RidingEasy had started. He sent me a demo of 'Empress Rising' (the song) and I said 'I'm in. Finish the record and we will get this going.' And so we did," said label founder Daniel Hall. "Monolord is a fantastic band. Their dedication shows and they are poised for a lot of greatness to come."

Here's a quick email Q and A with Jäger:

* If someone on the street were to ask you what Monolord is all about, what would you tell them?

We are just three guys that like to play heavy music, drink coffee and touring.

* How did you guys all meet and when did you begin playing together?

Me and Esben met through a boogie rock band called Marulk. Mika came along just in time to record the first album.

* What were some of those early practices like? Could you tell something special was brewing?

It was something in the air that night. We wrote the song "Empress Rising" on our first rehearsal and two lights broke. So I guess something was going on.

* What was your first gig like? A great one? Were people digging it?

We played our first gig as a release party for our first album. Around 60-70 people came. We played the whole first record.

* What have been some highlights of your career?

Releasing two albums that people seem to like, playing Roadburn, touring in both USA and Europe.

* What are your goals for the future?

More touring, more recording! Get our own signature coffee. And beer.

* Where do you turn for lyrical inspiration?

Greed, right wing insanity, pollution. It is sad, but it is hard to be inspired of the good things in life. But how good can a song about dancing in the streets get?

* Who's your go-to band when you're listening to music together?

We are listening together mostly in the tour van. We listen to everything from Slayer and Entombed to psych or to the sound of wheels against asphalt.

* Monolord is LOUD... How many amps have you guys blown over the years?

None, actually. We take care and maintain our stuff.

* Can you guys all still hear pretty well? I know that my ears were ringing after the show I saw in Austin.


* What's the best part about being in Monolord?

That there are no surprises. We can rely on each other.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Shattered Faith: Tight-knit 'Saviors of Sound' unleash new album

Courtesy photos

By Andy

It all started with a cassette tape: "The Future Looks Bright Ahead."

When my brother shoved that seminal punk compilation into his friend's car stereo in 1981, the orange VW station  wagon  shook to the crucial sounds of lead-off band Shattered Faith's trio of sharp, raw tunes laced with melody and angst. We were stoked to no end. We had found a new favorite band.

"Another Day Passes," "The Verdict" and "Trilogy" -- along with all the other stellar bands on that comp  -- would receive so many plays that I was afraid my tape might shatter. It has survived until today and I still pop it in the tape deck at times.  Those songs were life-changers and life-long companions.

We witnessed the band live a few times over the years, and my group Sorex even shared a bill with them once in 1985.

I spoke with singer Spencer Bartsch on the phone two Sundays ago and got the lowdown about what's been cooking in the Shattered Faith camp.

March 19 was a big day as Hostage Records unleashed the band's "Volume 3" album. Ten songs, 10 head-nodding nuggets of pure Shattered Faith tuneage that is just as vital now as it was back when they set up shop in Bartsch's parents' bedroom in Fountain Valley, Calif. -- while mom and pop were away in Singapore -- to get those early songs into gear.

On the new release, Shattered Faith has breathed life into a batch of old songs and lyrics residing on an antiquated cassette -- reworked and updated for today's world. Now, they've officially been given a home in the band's catalogue, and Bartsch is putting out the welcome mat and handing off the keys to the front door.

The Hostage guys have proclaimed Shattered Faith the "Saviors of Sound" in their raving about the band and this project in the liner notes.

"I'm way proud, I think it's the best work we've done," Bartsch said. "If you listen to our first record, our second record and this new record, the only difference you're gonna hear is the progression and being musicians. The sound doesn't change that much. We've stuck to our guns and we haven't tried to make our songs reggae, we haven't tried to throw shit in there to get as popular. Our goal was never to get famous, to make money, it was just to make music. Because we went to our first shows, and we're like, 'fuck, we can do this.' "

Those first concerts included UFO and Blue Oyster Cult and then punk gigs at the Masque with bands like the Eyes, Skulls and Gears and parties with The Middle Class and more.

Bartsch joined up with close friend and guitarist Kerry Martinez's band The Executors in the summer of '79 (the band was formed in '78), first playing bass and singing some songs and then easing his way into the main vocalist spot as the band was christened Shattered Faith. Some Executors songs made the transitional cut and new tunes emerged, matched with Bartsch's lyrics about politics, religion and everyday life.

Some of the lyrics to the old songs are still relevant, said Bartsch, who penned some new lyrics, as well.

"It depends on the particular day what's on my mind, but (Martinez is) always sending me weird stuff that goes on, weird government shit, stuff that's not talked about a lot and stuff that makes me have to think about 'how is that possible or why would they do something like that?'" Bartsch said of where his lyrics are culled from.

Added Martinez in an email interview about the lyric- and songwriting process: "Spencer is an intelligent dude and always had a good understanding of things that were happening globally. Usually current event stuff, intertwined with daily stuff. One of us would have some chords or lyrics put together and we would paste the two and try and project or sound like what we thought the song was saying."

Courtesy photo

To bring the new album to fruition, Martinez -- who lives in Brooklyn and played in US Bombs -- and the rest of band -- who are all settled in the Orange County area of SoCal -- shared tracks back and forth via email for several months and then gathered at the Pot O' Gold recording studio in Orange to stitch the whole thing together. The entire procedure -- from the initial song-sharing to the final recording -- took about a year, and it's been well worth the wait, Bartsch said.

"Kerry called it 'lightning in a bottle' -- it just flowed and everything came together really well and it was an awesome process," Bartsch said of the final stages.

After Martinez blew in from Brooklyn, the band rehearsed for about four hours and then spent just three seven-hour days recording and mixing the album. Shattered Faith was the last band to record at Pot O' Gold before they were set to relocate the studio.

"It's like were always flying like a bat in the rain," Martinez said. "Ninety-eight percent of that stuff is the first take, with all the mistakes and rawness included. That's how we used to do it and that's how we did it, pure and simple. We did 11 songs, and the struggle, desperation and the determination to finish in time was the sound when it was finished."

Martinez added that the experience was magical-like with the band members' chemistry at a premium.

Songs on the new album include Bartsch's foray into Shattered Faith writing, "Discontent," which initially appeared on the "Who Cares" comp in 1981, along with Executors' tunes "A Special Day," "No Nuclear War" and "Life is a Strain" and a cover of the Dave Clark Five's "Any Way You Want It," which only appears on the CD version,  and more.

Bartsch and Martinez -- chums since grade school -- are the two original members of the band, which also includes longtime bassist Bob Tittle and guitarist Denny McGahey, along with drummer Steve Shears and guitarist Branden Bartsch, Spencer's 27-year-old son. Three guitarists lend their chops to the album, McGahey and the younger Bartsch handle live duties most of the time, but Martinez jumps into the mix when he's available.

"I'm 55 and it's a lot of fun to play the songs and that people want to listen to it. We've never been a big band in any way, shape or form. We're not like a headlining band, we have very little notoriety, but for some reason, there's enough people that are into it that we still play and people will show up. There's dads and moms and their kids, and now their kids are into it," said Bartsch, who is a graphic artist and did the artwork for the new album, which quickly sold out of its 100-run "art-damage" version (shown on the left in the photo below) and a European distributor  bought 200-300 copies.

"I'm really stoked to be on stage with my son and Kerry and Denny, the whole band, that's the most fun ever for me. I smile -- I'm thinking, 'This is it. This is what it's all about.' And we all get along -- there's no band tension, we all care about each other," the singer added, noting that the band would like to play on European soil in the near future.

On bringing his son into the Shattered Faith fold, Bartsch said that he likes Branden's guitar-playing style and would want him in the band regardless of the familial bond. Everyone else feels the same way, the singer said.

Martinez chipped in about what Shattered Faith means to him, from the Posh Boy recordings until now: "The songs meant something then and still do now, but its kinda like looking at a trophy or a scrapbook. Who wants to live in the past? We have to keep learning and growing.Those songs weren't trying to save the world or anything, but rather reflections or glimpses of how we saw things at that place in time."

The Shattered Faith family is a tight-knit one, especially with the elder Bartsch and Martinez, who also encouraged Branden to dust off his guitar at age 11 and get cracking on that Christmas present from the year before.

"I've never not been able to tell Kerry exactly how I feel about stuff, or when something's really bugging me. I was always and still am always able to talk to him about it. He understands," said Bartsch. "We made a deal a long time ago, that if we're single when we get old-old, like in our 80s, that we're gonna move in together and spend the rest of our lives. Neither one of us are going to go out alone." Bartsch belts out a laugh afterward.

And there's no better way to close than shifting back to Martinez for a heartfelt assessment of his Shattered Faith experience: "The band is like a piece of my soul. It's a part of my life. Fighting, hating, learning, growing and loving. It has had so many sides to it. It's strange in a way, like it's come full circle or we hit the reset button. But even through the worst of times, our respect and friendship has always stood strong. We never held on to anything or never had any resentments towards one another. It's very rare in life that you have those kind of friends or those connections with people. Most families don't even have that. So to be able do something that I love, with the people I love, is special."