Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I interviewed Hank Williams III!

I was really excited about this. You can read the full article here:

In country music, the surname “Williams” has become almost a talisman — the mark of a dynasty, and a legacy unto itself. The father, the son, and now the grandson have all blazed their own trails through (and beyond) pure country, telling three very different stories but sharing a musical heritage (and in Hank I and Hank III’s case, an uncanny resemblance). It’s a blessing and a curse that the Williams clan’s youngest scion, one Shelton Hank Williams III, has labored under since the first day he drew breath. When your granddad’s regarded as one of the most important country artists of all time and your daddy’s a whiskey-bent and hellbound multiplatinum outlaw called Bocephus, it takes a lot of balls to pick up a guitar, say “fuck it,” and start writing something entirely different.

Luckily, if there’s one thing Hank III has got in abundance, it’s cojones, and if you’re wondering why you’re on a metal site reading references to the man who wrote “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” here’s your answer: we’re talking about his grandson, the man who single-handedly put the “dick” back in Dixie and does his damnedest to keep the raw, rebellious soul of outlaw country alive. Couple redneck royalty with a youth spent pounding the drums for handcore bands and an enduring penchant for thrash and doom, it’s no wonder that he has set up camp at the crossroads of country and heavy metal. These two seemingly disparate genres have quite a bit more in common that meets the eye, and Hank III’s eclectic repertoire is a product of the creative bent and fuck-you can-do attitude that personifies the best of both. He’s been doing things his way since the early nineties — collaborating with the Melvins and Willie Nelson, playing in Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem, recording his own tunes with Assjack and under his own name — and decades later, is showing no signs of slowing down.

With four (!) new albums to promote and an array of tour dates coming up quick, ol’ Hank’s got a lot on his mind, and he was more than happy to let me pick his brain.

“Well we’re losing all the outlaws
that had to stand their ground
and they’re being replaced by these kids
from a manufactured town
And they don’t have no idea
about sorrow and woe
‘Cause they’re all just too damn busy
kissin’ ass on Music Row
So I’m here to put the “dick” in Dixie
and the “cunt” back in country
‘Cause the kind of country I hear nowdays
is a bunch of fuckin’ shit to me…”
- “Dick in Dixie,” Hank III


Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Straight from CSR Headquarters...

Aksumite has successfully recorded their follow up full length and it was a truly amazing experience. The album was recorded live (bass and vocals overdubbed) totally analog to two-inch tape in one take. No edits, fakery, reverb, or computers were present. The sound you will hear is 100% raw, authentic tubes and tape. Totally analog, 100%. Aksumite is not opposed to digital recording, however they wanted to pay tribute to the rich history of analog recording with their second album. The result is nothing less than stunning. It has surpassed all expectations. An outside engineer was brought in to engineer the sessions (held in his studio). His input and recording expertise (as well as his amazing selection of vintage equipment) was incredibly well appreciated. The album was recorded in five hours and mixed by myself (DAMIANMASTER) and the recording engineer in three hours. Aksumite is currently looking into their mastering options. Look for this release to be available in the early summer. The artwork will be handled by WEEKS (designer and illustrator of the CSR logo). For now, we give you the title and track-listing:


1. Lioness of Gobedra
2, Angel Strike Animal
3. Priory of Aksum
4. Via India
5. Invoke the Spirit Jackal Cloak
6. For the Glory of All Afrika
7. Ezana's Right Hand
8. Ezana's Right Hand (outro)
9. Brazen Ape
10. Islamic Mauraduers
11. Come Alive by Fire
12. The Gilded Goat.

total running time: approx. 25 minutes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Yo, Lemme Get That In A Large," Or How To Buy Merch Without Driving Someone Crazy

I spend a lot of time on the road hustling merchandise for bands (from local heroes to decades-old legends), and am always delighted to have the chance to spend time with friends, soak in new and familiar music, meet new people, and visit cool new places/familiar haunts. I'm lucky to be able to do it, and wouldn't trade it for the world. That being said, there are a few aspects of the cotton tech's existence that I could very much do without. I'm generally not bothered by the hardships of touring - the constant exhaustion, discomfort, uncleanliness, strained situations back home, and being broke as a joke - but am driven up the goddamn wall during the act of selling merch by a particular set of behaviors exhibited by my dear customers. That's why I'm drawing up this tirade/how-to guide at 4am in the morning at a Motel 6 somewhere outside New Orleans - the ever-present combination of frustration, weariness, and the makings of a hangover. So, business as usual, pretty much. With that being said...


1. Don't touch things (ESPECIALLY me!)

Those items on that table are arranged that way for a reason. It's a display. Rifling through everything, unfolding and rearranging and throwing things around, will not endear you to me. I just spent time making that table look a certain way. If you MUST look with your hands instead of your eyes, at least make an effort to return said item to its rightful place.

Also, don't touch me. Handshakes are fine, high fives are rad, but unnecessary grabbing, hugging, or pulling at my hair (!) is NOT appreciated. If you get even more inappropriate, you WILL regret it. Remember those hairy, sweaty, tattooed dudes you just spent a half hour watching onstage? They're essentially my big brothers, and they will not be pleased to hear that their little sister is being messed with.

2. Read the signs before asking questions

See that sign over there? The one with all the items and their prices listed? I made that for you, to make both of our lives easier. Please, please, PLEASE read the sign. It'll save you having to repeatedly scream your queries at me while the band is playing, it'll save us both a good deal of time, and it'll save me a whole lot of hating you. The sign holds all the answers. Read the fucking sign.

3. Don't try to buy things while the band is playing unless you're good at nonverbal communication

Metal bands are loud, and I'm wearing earplugs because I see them every single night. I cannot understand your mumbling. I can't decipher your weird hand gestures. I'm definitely not going to understand your jokes. Just wait until we can speak like civilized beings - or get better at sign language. You want one XL shirt? Hold up one finger, then do an "x" and an "L" sign. Success!

4. Don't try to bargain

This is a sure-fire way to make me hate you. Crying "I'm so broke, I don't have any money...can you give it to me for ten?" while clutching a freshly purchased beer is not a good strategy for getting me to take pity on you. Getting agressive, belligerent, or bitchy is an even better way to get a solid "Fuck off" out of me. The customer is not always right.

If you come up and want a ten-dollar item and genuinely only have eight or nine bucks, and ask nicely, of course I'll cut you a deal. If you come up and try to convince me to cut you a massive discount, it ain't happening, unless the band authorizes it. Which brings us to...

5. Don't ask for free shit

The only way you're getting anything for free is if you're a friend of the band, and they give their okay. Period. If you're a nice person and treat me respectfully, I might toss you a couple stickers or cut you a small deal, but no, you can't have anything for free. Would you ask the cashier at Shake Shack for a free burger? No (and if you are, you're an idiot, because I know that you wasted all that time waiting in line for nothing).

6. Don't be offended if I don't remember you

Touring bands & crews meet a lot of people - a LOT. I talk to anything from a few dozen to a few thousand new people each night, and no, I don't always remember all of them. If we had a good conversation and talked for a bit, I might. If you're a giant dickhead, I'll try not to. If you're one of a million other nice, pudgy, bearded white guys in a black metal shirt, I probably won't. Sorry. Don't take it personally.

7. DON'T ask if we're "with" the band

Some merch people happen to be dating someone in the band they work with. Plenty of us are not. It's not up to you to make assumptions or judgements on a stranger's relationship status. Don't ask, or make knowing remarks, or smirk, and for fuck's sake, don't you dare call someone who is working twenty-four hours a day for shitty pay and can lift more guitar cabs than your pasty ass could ever dream of hoisting a goddamn "groupie." Would you ask the cashier at CVS whether or not she's fucking her manager? No, you wouldn't (unless you're a weirdo), because it's rude. Extend the same courtesy to us (and for the record, I've never toured with a boyfriend's band, and doubt I ever will; I've seen a lot of terrible tension and fighting between touring couples, and want no part of that nonsense!).

8. Be polite

This is very, very much appreciated, especially given the kinds of drunken idiots we deal with on a regular basis. "Please" and "thank you" really do go a long way, just like your mama told you they would.

9. Tip (if you'd like)

This is not mandatory, of course, but much like politeness and communication skills, is very much appreciated. It's like tipping a bartender; you'll get better service, with the added benefit of making a real impact upon whether someone eats once or three times the next day. Unless we're talking big stadium tour rockstar levels, merch people generally do not make much money, and those tips make a big difference. If you can spare a dollar or two, please do!

*Several people have commented on this post saying that they feel tipping merch people is unnecessary, and that even putting out a tip jar is presumptuous and rude. My only response to that is to emphasize that, as I stated above, tipping is not mandatory, or even expected - it is simply appreciated. No one is going to be a cunt to you if you don't tip (and if they are, they're not doing their job properly). Most of us live on a small per diem (daily allowance for food/expenses - and we're talking $5-10 generally) and any supplemental dosh is a welcome addition. There is a lot more to this job than "take money, grab t-shirt, hand to customer," but customers don't see all the work that goes on behind the scenes. If the sight of a tip jar offends you, ignore it; if not, carry on as you see fit!

10. Don't try to help load out

The sentiment is very sweet, and very much appreciated, but please, don't try to help. We have a system of packing up, loading out, and getting everything back in the van/trailer, and when someone we don't know is messing with our boxes, we get nervous, and the order gets disrupted. Things go missing, fragile things get broken or's not a good scenario. We love that you want to help, but please resist the urge. Don't assume that I can't lift something "because I'm a girl" or some such nonsense; trust me, I can, and if I can't, someone else on the crew will. Knights in shining armour need not apply.

11. Watch your drink

Please don't put your drink on my table. If you must, put it someplace besides on the vinyl, or the t-shirts, or the paper item...remember, plastic cups and bottles come replete with condensation, which is water, which is what you're currently soaking my merchandise with. And, if you manage to spill the damn thing, you will be expected to clean up your mess, then pay for any merchandise you've ruined. Otherwise, I hate you.

12. Don't expect special treatment

Say you've been a model customer all night - polite, matter of fact, a good tipper. You're on my good side - nice work, dude! Unfortunately for you, this does not mean that I owe you anything. We're not friends. We are the retailer, you are a customer. It's not my job to hunt down the band and have them sign your sixteen LPs. It's not my problem if you wanted a photo with them but could only find one member. It's definitely not my job to try to bring you backstage (why do you even want to go back there anyway? Backstage is just a dingy room with a tub half-full of melting ice and domestic beer and a bunch of our backpacks strewn about). It's my job to sell you things. The fanboy routine gets real old, real fast when you've got a half dozen people in every city clamoring for you to "do me a favor, sweetheart." No. Figure it out on your own.

With that being said, if you are an actual friend of the band, or of mine, or are a little kid, or are just an exceptionally nice individual, and I've got some downtime, I will almost always help you out. I like making people smile, and the guys in the band love meeting their fans. Just follow this one last rule, and you'll be that much closer to your heroes...

13. Don't be a dick

Seriously. Treat others how you'd like to be treated, and keep in mind - we're a lot more tired, sick, sore, and hungry than you are. So fucking be nice, and so will we!

The merch girl.

Interview with Colloquial Sound Recordings

During the course of my most recent travels (across the US of A slinging merch for the mighty Corrosion of Comformity) I was fortunate enough to make the formal acquaintance of Colloquial Sound Recordings label head Damian. He sauntered up to my table during our Grand Rapids, Michicag gig, handed me a beautifully crafted cassette, and introduced himself. Given that said tape (Aksumite’s ‘The Gleam of Wetted Lips’) was one of my favorite releases of this past year, I was delighted, and wanted to delve a bit deeper into the story behind the label. Damian was gracious enough to submit to a couple questions about his young but prolific endeavor.

Where are you based, and when did you launch the label? What was CSR's first release?

CSR is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. The label was launched in spring of 2011 and Aksumite - The Gleam of Wetted Lips is our first release.

What prompted you to start the CSR label in the first place? What is your goal?

I had been compiling material for years that I had wanted to release. It always seemed like getting someone else to be as passionate about the things you create is nearly impossible. It just seemed like a logical step to create CSR to release the music I felt most passionate about. I could have total control over everything 100%. I wouldn't have to compromise or pander to what someone else thought. The goal is simple: When I started buying underground music (1994) you would see an indie label's logo on the back of a release and you would know right at that moment that you would like the music on the record, even if you've never heard the band. The goal of the label is to create an aesthetic and experiment within that aesthetic.. If you like one CSR release, you'll probably like most, if not all the other releases. CSR is a there to develop a taste, a flavor. Granted that flavor is very specific and not everyone will like it, but the various shades of style exist under the same sonic umbrella. I have nothing against labels that are diverse, Profound Lore does and amazing job at this, but I also like when labels have an identifiable sound and aesthetic. Think Dischord, early Sub Pop, early SST, Amphetamine Reptile, early Touch & Go, Hospital Productions, Mego (Editions Mego), early Epitaph, Tragedy Records (hahah!).

Why cassettes, instead of CDs or digital releases? What other formats are you planning to work with down the line?

Cassettes are a perfect embodiment of the underground aesthetic. To the mainstream, they're useless, antiquated, and even laughable. But for the underground - they're a very powerful symbol. In the days before every man, woman and child knew how to download mp3s, people swapped tapes. They took time. This is how the underground flourished and bands were heard all across the world. I also like how there is something very temporary and fragile about them. They're a temperamental format, prone to all sorts of problems. It's an almost endearing trait. Also, due to the nature of CSR's music, there is a certain sort of "finishing touch" that happens when you place the music on a tape. The music of CSR is all relatively "lo-fi" and placing on a cassette compresses the sound in such a way that seems natural for the music. That being said, I'm certainly not opposed to the music being on CD or LP, but I have no plans for doing so at the moment. I have never and will never be interested in releasing something digitally exclusively. That's such a foreign concept to me. There should always be some sort of physical product available (or at least available at one time). But as a child of the 90s I'm enjoying the full-swing return of the cassette. Break out your No. 2 pencils!

Tell me a bit about Aksumite. The filthy raw punk'n'black feel of 'The Gleam of Wetted Lips" totally floored me, and you mentioned something about recording some new material?

I grew up being into punk and hardcore, I discovered metal around 1997 and started digging into really underground stuff in 1999. Aksumite is just the synthesis of styles I love. No regard for genre. It's unrepentant about what it is. We want to be like Hellhammer, loved by punks and metalheads alike. We will be recording our next album on March 17, live to 2" tape in a proper studio. Totally analog. Totally raw. Expect more thrash influence. It's going be a thrashing, d-beating, floor punching, black inspired dose of 100% blood cult metal punk. It will be titled Prideless Lions.

You told me a bit about the idea behind the band - the African Christian empire of Aksum, and its blasphemous implications for tr00 kvlt black metallers. Can you expound upon this? I think it's really interesting.

CSR is not, never claimed to be, and will never be a black metal label. We love black metal. We are certainly inspired totally by it, but it's not what we do. It's not who we are. I don't buy that a majority or even a large percentage of black metal playing Satanists actually are committed to any sort of theology or orthodoxy. The ones that are, and are religious about it, I actually admire completely. How can you not respect someone who believes something with conviction? Even if it differs from your own opinion. That being said, we borrow a lot from the musical heritage of Satanic bands, but are not Satanists, or grim or evil people. Quite the opposite. We're nice guys who actually do something with our lives to incite a change around us rather than bitching about how people "don't get us" like the scores of long-haired, army boot, camo-cutoffs wearing metalheads to busy swilling beer being burnouts to work hard and amount to anything. Or the laziness incarnate unwashed crust punks who scam their way through life spending what little money they've conned people out of on getting wasted and cool patches. Don't even get me started on their dogs... that shit makes makes me so angry. I say this as someone who has friends in both camps, the stereotypes are more often than not, sadly true. We respect all extreme genres and viewpoints no matter how they differ from our own. I thought it would be poignant to write about themes that hardline black metal people, supposedly the most extreme of all music fans, find so deplorable. Black and Semitics people and Christianity. So, why not start a band whose lyrical themes deal with the first Christian kingdom in Africa, Aksum (modern day Ethiopia). Furthermore, persons of this region claim to be the true chosen people of God, not the Jews. They are orthodox Christian keepers of the faith even still to this day. It's a fascinating country and story. They claim to own the Ark of the Covenant, and their claim is uncontested. So here we have all the things that the most extreme fringe black metal hates, rolled into one. I could not resist.

What other releases have you got coming up?

CSR just put out it's tenth release and will have upcoming releases from A Pregnant Light, This Station of Life, Aksumite, Obliti Devoravit and more.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Impiety - 'Ravage & Conquer' review

Ravage & Conquer

A clarion call heralds the return of Singapore's finest, the mighty Impiety, before "Revelaton Decimation" launches into eight minutes of seething black/death savagery. Fans of the band's earlier output will be well pleased with Ravage & Conquer; the band abandon the more experimental bent seen on their last LP, 2011's Worshippers of the Seventh Tyranny, and instead concentrate on mining the depths of death and black that have served them so well. Shyaithan's vocals have sunken into a gruff, ragged snarl (a la Master's Hammer or Abhorer), and the addition of new guitarist Nizam ups the intensity levels and melodic underpinnings while tormenting the whammy bar (listen to that bitch scream on title track!). Drummer Dizazter is all over the place in the best possible way, executing complex fills between the blasts and militant beats. For such a merciless act, Impiety have a firm grasp on the delicate science of dynamics, varying tempos and lapsing into thrashy or groovier territory within their infernal epics without sacrificing an iota of brutality. Their raw, pummeling cover of Bathory's "Sacrifice" is icing on the cake.

- Kim Kelly

Monday, March 5, 2012

Make 'Em Beg

Anticipation is a hell of a drug. Music consumers in the olden days (say, pre-Internet takeover) knew well that sensation of delicious agony following the announcement that your favorite band had hit the studio. Release dates meant something - they marked a date on a calendar and circled it in red, allowing excitement and dread to build and build until, finally, that day came. Whether you wheedled and begged your mom to drive you to the nearest Virgin last Tuesday or simply sat back and smugly awaited the mailman's approach before greedily tearing into your prize's cardboard prison, half the fun of listening to a new album was the waiting and wondering, the speculation and bold assertions that this one was going to rule - or, no, that one's totally going to blow dogs for quarters, man! Nowadays, we've become accustomed to a constant stream of content - new albums every year, an EP every six months, a tour-only 7" here, a digital compilation there, all stuffed down the feeding tube and shoehorned into our RSS feeds. As soon as an album leaves its creator's hands and lands in some blogger's inbox, the seal is broken, and it's only a matter of time before any Joe Blogspot can pirate the ever-loving shit out of it and render it nearly worthless. The wait is over; it never really had a chance to begin. Music has become less of a commodity and more of an expectation. When a band chooses to buck the system and follow their own goddamn pace thank you very much, their fans are given a taste of that old familiar ache, and unless we're talking a washed-up eighties buttrock reunion album or a flaccid slice of warmed-over nu metal, odds are it's going to taste that much sweeter once they're finally able to sink their fangs into Track 1.

There have been plenty of good records released in the past few years; hell, even the earliest stages of 2012 have already provided a glut of decent tunes, and we're barely past February. Out of all those good albums, though, only a few will ever be great. The cream rises to the top, and as time goes by, it's got more and more leagues of slop to slither its way through. Bands need to take a chill pill. Stop and smell the roses. Make that riff really sing.

Take yer time. Make it count. Some of us are willing to wait.