Thursday, December 1, 2016

Slaughtered Remains: Fragments of "Wranglin' Violence", Pt. I.

Church of Disgust - “Veneration of Filth” (Memento Mori):Year: 2016
Location:  San Marcos/Tampa, FL
The idea of purity in a genre as rotten as death metal may sound like something of an oxymoron, but there are few things more satisfying than a well-crafted onslaught of undiluted death.  “Veneration of Filth” is just such an album that absolutely smokes its predecessor, and I say that as someone that heavily praised “Unworldly Summoning” in Issue #1 and still hold it in high regard.  This is death metal spawned of the Morbid Angel school, backed up by guest vocals in “Sunken Altar of Dagon” by none other than the legendary Abomination of Desolation himself, Mr. Mike Browning.  The production recalls “Blessed Are The Sick” along with the brutal-yet-articulate vocal delivery of vocalist/guitarist Dustin James.  Leave your slam and -core at the door, kids, and bow down before the masters!

Remnants - “Lifeless” (Headsplit Records):
Year:  2016
Location:  Houston
It’s always a good thing when a group with established metal résumés delivers on high expectations, and the debut demo from Remnants has bashed any doubts of quality with a ten-ton hammer.  “Lifeless” is a work of Golden Age-inspired death metal that avoids clichés of stylistic regurgitation.  In an age where murky guitar tone and suffocating production are prominent, “Lifeless” contrasts with clear-cut riffing and memorable songwriting that worms its way into your eardrums with the force of an icepick.  I do not believe that the entire demo is available for streaming, but you can trust my word that anyone that bangs their head to “Like An Everflowing Stream” and “Left Hand Path” owes it to themselves to support the cassette release from the good maniacs at Headsplit Records.  Do not sleep on this one lest ye be considered false!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Die Hard: An Interview with YouTube Reviewer Joshua Armijo

Note:  I'm not posting every interview from Issue #2, but here's one with YouTube reviewer Joshua Armijo.  You can order Issue #2 at this link.  Thanks for the support of Issue #2, by the way!  It's been doing great!

This may be the only time I interview a non-band member (unless Ving Rhames finally returns my calls), but I see something of a kindred spirit in YouTube Reviewer Joshua Armijo.  Joshua Armijo, a.k.a. runnerjma, began filming spoken word music reviews on YouTube several years ago and has since grown to over 3,000 subscribers.  The man is one of the strongest supporters of the Texas black/death/thrash/heavy metal/metal of death cults and has a wicked hat collection to boot.  Josh answered these questions by email and laid out his opinions on current releases, reviews, and yes, hats.  Here you go!

Joshua and I at Disentomb in Austin.  Cameo appearance by Sterling of Id!  Credit: J. Armijo

1.  You’ve risen to prominence as a reviewer of metal on YouTube.  What are some advantages and disadvantages of this type of reviewing format?  

First of all, thank you for the kind words. It helps to be animated and visually express how someone would feel about an album, and encourage someone to go out and listen to and hopefully purchase whatever it is I discuss. Also the opportunity to have like minded discussions with subscribers about how they felt about it. Then and again, there are people who can't seem to appreciate a difference of opinion and act like imbecilic pussies about it, its a nuisance but it makes for fine entertainment. 

2.  What is the craziest show you’ve ever seen?  Feel free to not limit it to just one for the entertainment of our readers.  

Well, the one show that stands out to me more than any other was seeing Exhumed at The Korova basement in December 2012, they were having van issues and needed to play some one offs to help get back on the road, so a gig got booked in San Antonio. Something about that night felt very visceral and completely without restraint. The environment, crowd participation, and of course Exhumed themselves being as insane as ever in a small surrounding like that made it all the more memorable. Also, seeing bands like Morbosidad and War Master for the first time in 2014, both violent, primitive, and aggressive as can be in the metal underground. And Revenge at Destroying Texas Fest? Wow. EQUIMANTHORN!!!!

3. If there was one split-up Texan band that you could resurrect for a single show, who would it be and why?

I would have to say Averse Sefira. In my humble opinion, I firmly believe that their send off has been bittersweet, and I don't feel the band's legacy has been closed properly. I can imagine them doing just one last show, and then moving on from there. Don't see that happening anytime soon, but regardless of which, the impact that band has made on Texas black metal has been very long lasting.   [Forever hailed.  Anoint.  Alight.  Align.  - Ed.]

4.  You’ve been to a ton of underground shows in this state over the years.  However, since we can’t be in two places at once, what is one show you missed that you’re kicking yourself for?  Ed:  My two are Order From Chaos and the Meat Shits, both separate shows in 2010.  *beats self with chair*

Can't make em all, life gets in the way and responsibilities set in. I would have to honestly say Chaos In Tejas 2013 with Bolt Thrower, Integrity, Cruciamentum, all bucket list bands in my view. Even that pre fest with Imprecation and Tragedy seemed like an amazing time. Shit happens.

5.  How do you find the inspiration to consistently review new material without getting burned out or feeling like you’re repeating yourself?

Because I've always done things on my own terms and have answered to nobody. I also have never treated this hobby like its a job, this is passion for metal more than anything. I've been doing this on my own for almost five years without anyone's assistance, aside from the many great friends and colleagues I've met through YouTube who've helped me get to where I am. In recent times, I've been slowing down on content, but that's because I don't want to run myself into the ground. My love and passion for metal is another reason why I remain inspired, I've often seen people cry foul about how they've become tired of metal and wanting to drift away from it. Their disappointments fuel my need to be successful. Metal has no place for "part time metalheads" or infiltrators with no passion, heart, or love, the former and the latter can fuck off.  

6.  There is no way I could do an interview with you without asking this question:  What is your favorite hat?  Follow up:  Since your hats get passed around pretty often at shows, who is your favorite musician to throw your hat on during a show?

I knew this was going to happen haha! I have quite a few, obviously anything in my Spongebob collection. I also have a hat inspired by Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" with some really cool woven gold threads. And I love my Doge inspired hats, shibe inus are the cutest, meme or not.   [Fuckin’ love Shibes - Ed.]  And King Fowley of Deceased is the one guy I can attribute to having interaction with my hats.  Goregrowler's Ball in 2011, he wore one of my Spongebob hats and did a backhand toss and I caught it, there's video of it on YouTube I think. Ironically, fast forward to the last time I saw Deceased, King did the same thing. Its stuff like that, that can stay with you forever.

Speaking of Deceased…, here’s a live photo from February!  Hail King Fowley!

7.  What is your favorite band reaction to one of your videos?

I am always eternally grateful whenever a review I do has the approval of a band. I was taken by surprise when Paradise Lost shared a review I did of their album Tragic Idol. Or when notable figures like Antti Boman of Demilich and Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))) came across video reviews I did of their respective bands, its a very surreal feeling. And Full Of Hell have been supportive of my quirks and exploits. I value their friendships probably more than any piece of physical music I could own.

8.  Judging by the entire left side of your vest, you love Texas metal just as much as I do, if not more.  What are your favorite current/active bands from the Lone Star State?

In no particular order, Blaspherian, Imprecation, Morgengrau, Birth A.D., Absu, Flesh Hoarder, Cheese Grater Masturbation, Sturmgewehr, Womanthrower, U.S.O., VBT, Hexlust, Whore of Bethlehem, Devourment, Plutonian Shore, Sacrocurse, and some newer bands like Id, Absurdist, Oceans Of Slumber, Desecrate The Faith, Defiled Crypt, Funeral Ash, and Hellknife are ones to be on the lookout for, a glimpse into the future of Texas metal.

9.  This zine will be released at the third quarter of 2015.  As of the time that I’m sending the interview, what are your ten favorite albums of the year?

 As of this writing this is my current top ten (this list is subject to change):
 1. Leviathan- Scar Sighted
 2. Archgoat- The Apocalyptic Triumphator
 3. Genocide Shrines- Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil
 4. Misþyrming- Söngvar elds og óreiðu
 5. Hic Iacet- The Cosmic Trance Into The Void
 6. Author & Punisher- Melk En Honing
 7. Dodheimsgard- A Umbra Omega
 8. Crowhurst- Crowhurst
 9. Ranger- Where Evil Dwells
 10. TRTRKMMR- Avec La Souillure Nous Entrons Au Règne De La Terreur

10.  This space is yours to hail, shout, kill, etc etc etc:

Once again, thank you so much for this opportunity to be included in your amazing 'zine! You are an ambassador for the greater good of Texas metal Jake!  (Aw shucks - Ed.) And an immense thank you to any and all who have been involved in this unique journey of mine, it means more to me than you can imagine. Remember, metal can be a forever thing, and can lead you to long lasting life and enjoyment. Learn to love it, learn to live with it, metal is the best thing going today! Diamonds are forever, and so is the Texas metal underground. Hail metal! Hail death! Armijo Out!

Monday, July 13, 2015

From the Dark Past: Beer Reebs of Hod, August 2010

I have definitely seen Hod more times than any other band.  I lost count years ago, but up to the point they split (mid-2015), it might even have been in the triple-digits.  One of those times was at the old Emo's in Austin in August of 2010.  This was before I knew any of the band members other than TA (bass), who invited me to my first Hod show in March of 2010.  I was standing outside a Motorhead show after they played hoping to meet Lemmy, and I remember I was wearing my Kreator "Pleasure to Kill" shirt.  Up walks TA, who handed me a flyer for another show taking place a few blocks over.  I still have the flyer, and although UtS alumni Nosferion played, I didn't actually see them (womp womp).  

But Hod fucking slayed that night, and a few months later, I interviewed their singer, Beer Reebs after a ripping set.  Again, pardon my interviewing ability as I was still learning the ropes, especially with in-person interviews.  Anyway, here's the text with some minor editing for clarity.

1. JH: I understand Hod has undergone some lineup changes since "Serpent" was released last year. Would you like to introduce the new band members?

Beer Reebs: Well, honestly, we got T [Trans-Am] on bass and that's pretty much all that needs to be said. The [previous] bass player [Derek Rivers], he had some cancer problems. As far as the second guitarist, we're working a session person right now.  [7/13/2015 - At this time, this was Dustin, formerly of Khringe, Doom Siren, and more.  He also books plenty of awesome shows]

2. JH: How is the recording process for the new album going?

BR: The recording process for the new album is still going. We're doing the drum tracks first, and it's still going, we've had a couple of minor setbacks in the fucking recording process, but it's running smoothly.

3. JH: What can fans of "Serpent" expect from the newer Hod material?

BR: Better shit. We've got nothing bad to say about "Serpent", but with the new album, we've all come together as one single unit as opposed to five motherfuckers that just killed everybody on their own anyway. So now we're five motherfuckers that kill everybody acting as one single unit killing everybody.

4. JH: Do you have any song titles planned out for the new album that you'd be able to share?

BR: We got "Walking Wounded", which is an FBI term about people who are abducted and sexually tortured, mentally abused and tortured, and you don't know what's going on. We've got "In the Den of Wolves", which is basically, "you're in the wrong place at the wrong time"...

JH: It's a very Destroyer 666 kind of vibe I'm getting.

BR: You can do that, yeah.

5. JH: Your vocals are very distinct, they seem to vary from a putrid growl to a devilish croak. What are some of your influences, and how did you develop that style?

BR: Well, fuck, man, I'm a firm believer in "if you can't do it, don't do it." We've worked with the same producer, engineer, whatever you want to call that shit, I don't know, I'm not a professional guy. We've worked with the same guy, he's worked with me in my other bands, my metal bands, and he knows how to do my vocals. Like I said, again, "if you can't do it, don't do it", but it's...[Beer was distracted and lost his train of thought here]...What was the question?

JH: Basically, what are some of your vocal influences?

BR: Vocal influences, I'd have to say Jeff Clayton from ANTiSEEN, John Tardy from Obituary, Michael D. Williams from Eyehategod, you know, any of the dead horse guys, I mean, it goes on, you know.

6. JH: How are Hod's lyrics usually written, like, [how does] the process usually go?

BR: I write all of the lyrics and vocals, and in my opinion, the lyrics and the vocals are the last thing that matter, so until I get the song down, I don't write lyrics until I feel what the song feels. It'll always be nasty, it'll always be ugly, it'll always be the bad guy, always being on the wrong side of the tracks. It'll always be fucking metal. But, the lyrics are the last thing that will be involved in any song. I may not have anything to do with the music outside of arrangement, telling them to do this or that, but the music comes first, and the music puts me in the mood for what it is I sing about.

7. JH: Texas is proving to be the home of a ton of up-and-coming true extreme metal bands, would you like to tell us about some of your favorites?

BR: Oh, I'd have to give a shout-out to Hexlust from Kileen, those motherfuckers, those are our little brothers.

JH: ...Who happen to be playing a show tonight in San Antonio, but unfortunately, we couldn't be in two places at once.

BR: We can, but we just can't let the rest of ya'll know about it.

JH: [Laughs] If we told you, we'd have to kill you.

BR: We'd have to kill you. Actually, we're gonna kill you anyway. [Laughs before returning to the question] Hexlust, Butchered Saint's a good band, Engaged in Mutilating really puts themselves out there, and they work it. Doom Siren from Austin are good friends of ours, you know, we can go on.

8. JH: On that note, you play a lot of local shows. What are some of your favorite venues to play in Texas?

BR: Houston has always done us good, Walter's, and their promoters. In San Antonio, the Ten Eleven is awesome, it's a venue run by guys that are in a van, no, a band, not in a van, they tour, they respect everything. That's a good venue. In Austin, we've been taken care of at Emo's, we've been taken care of at Room 710 lately, we always played, no, we got taken care of at Red 7, we were always taken care of at Room 710, we miss that place. It just depends on who's booking the show.

9. JH: Thank you very much, for the interview, Beer! Any last words you'd like to throw out in order to conclude this interview?

BR: Support real fucking metal!  If you do not go out to shows, they're not gonna come back!  [7/13/2015 - Truth, see Lethal Aggression: "No Scene".]

From the Dark Past: Interview with Jeff A.D. of Birth A.D., April 2010

This is another interview I did, this time with Birth A.D. in April 2010, over five years ago. I had seen Birth A.D. (and Hexlust, for that matter) for the first time four months prior and was blown away. This also has the distinction of being the first interview I ever did, being the humble age of 19. The questions are very basic and I wasn't very good at interviewing, but everyone has to start somewhere. I want to post on this blog a bit more, so consider these interviews to be some "bonus tracks" for you loyal zine-readers out there.

1. JH: First of all, where was "Stillbirth of a Nation" recorded, and who produced it?

Jeff: We actually recorded it at a home studio, a practice space, and Mark's house. The whole thing was done on a laptop. It was about as DIY as you can get, and we were very pleased with the results. Mark did the principle production, while I got the cushy executive producer role (e.g. "fix this, more of that").

2. JH: How long did the album take to record and mix?

J: I think it took a week in total. Mark tweaked the hell out of it though, so he might have a different story.

3. JH: Birth A.D. toured Japan very early on in the band's existence. How did that
tour come about, and what are your thoughts on said tour?

J: Just Rock PR set that up for us. We'd approached them about taking other bands of ours to Japan in the past, but Just Rock was most confident about Birth A.D. finding an audience. It was a great time all the way around. Tokyo really is the way you see it in movies, and I loved that. The people there are very polite and professional, and they know how to go berserk when the time is right. If Austin was more like Tokyo, I never would have written the song "This Scene Sucks"!

4. JH: "Blow Up The Embassy" is an excellent take on the Fearless Iranians From Hell classic. Are there any other songs that Birth A.D. would be interested in covering in the near future?

J: I've thought about it, but for the most part I'm more interested in continuing to write and perform original material. DRI would be an obvious choice for us, but stylistically it's almost redundant. We could stick with the Texas thing and update an MDC song or something. The Fearless Iranians song was something that fit lyrically and musically with the rest of our material, but again I'm more concerned about making my own ideas heard. [7/13/2015: I'm still lobbying for that Carnivore cover and/or Razor "Burning Bridges]

5. JH: The music video for "Parasites Die" was released in February and was filmed in Austin. Could you tell us about the experience of shooting the video?

J: It was fun and shockingly easy. It all went exactly as I planned it, which was fortunate since I had to perform and direct the video at the same time. People showed up, they got into it, they let me tell them where to stand and what to do - it was great. Everything you see was shot in two hours from start to finish. It was validating for me because I wasn't sure how close my vision would be to the finished product, and in the end it was almost perfect. The only thing we lost was a funny shot of Jason McMaster stealing my sunglasses. That shot was too hard to light and too hard to block without prior rehearsal. Headhunters really set us up nicely, and we owe a continuing vote of thanks to Billy Milano for his support of the band and arranging the shoot itself.

6. JH: On a related note, what made you choose "Parasites Die" for the video?
J: I came up with it when I was standing out in front of Room 710 about a year ago. I originally planned to be walking down Red River and shoving past people as I went. Usually if a good idea comes to me I just run with it. It could have been any song off the EP really, but "Parasites Die" had a pretty unmistakable message.

7. JH: Will Birth A.D. make any more videos from "Stillbirth of a Nation"?

J: Nothing official, no. You'll probably continue to see new live footage of us until the sun burns out, but I'm not planning anything else. The next release will have one, but ideally a label will fund that.

8. JH: Will studio versions of "Violent Retribution", "I Blame You", and "Short Bus Society" be released any time soon?

J: Soon enough, yes. We're shopping to labels right now, and as of this writing there are some promising responses. As soon as we get that sorted out, there will be a proper full-length with all-new songs and lots of touring to go with it.

9. JH: Are there any newer metal bands you've been listening to that you'd like to give a shout-out to?

J: Hod is good, and they continue to get better. Hexlust is a real blast on stage, too. Other than that I'm listening to stuff that everyone knows like the new Immolation album. It rules.

From The Dark Past: An Interview With Hexlust, January 2011

In January of 2011, I drove up to Killeen to spend a weekend with one of my favorite Texas metal bands - the mighty HEXLUST! I crashed there and watched a practice that ended in a bass-off that resulted in me getting my ass handed to me by Tarzan. After this humiliating display of four-string tomfoolery, the entire band sat with me and conducted a massive interview. Due to the length, it will not be included in any UtS issues, but I did want to share it as a glimpse to the past. I kept current commentary to a minimum but offered a few updates that were relevant.

This interview was originally published in an online publication I wrote for in college and is completely intact.

1. JH: Tony, this question was already answered by Dartanion in a recent interview with Aaron Goregrowler, but could you just give us a brief summary to how Hexlust formed and how the current lineup came to be solidified?

Tony: Well, it started back around 2005 with Dartanion and [me]. We met together and we wanted to form a thrash metal band and not just a generic metal band at all. We just wanted to play what we love. A couple of years later, after several guitarists going through our lineup we met JT at Guitar Center, and the rest is history. We had another bass player who unfortunately quit, and JT and Keith were actually in another band called Nautilus. They broke up and we asked Keith to hop in, so it's just been the four of us since 2008.

2. JH: Now, first things first, Hexlust has a new logo, how did that come about?

JT: Well, our good friend from [Austin crossover band] Birth A.D., Jeff, he's a good friend of ours and he's also a good friend of renowned tattoo and metal artist Jon Zig, and [Jeff] gave him out old logo...

Dartanion: That I drew! *Laughs*

JT: ...That Dartanion drew, and the rest is pretty much history.

JH: That's the second question in a row you've answered with "...and the rest is history"! [Everyone laughs]

JT: [When finished laughing] And yeah, Jeff actually sent us an e-mail with a logo that Jon Zig did for us, he sent us an old logo, it was a metallic-looking logo that we all didn't really like that much, and then he had him do it again, and that's the current logo we have now, and that's pretty much it there. We all like it. It took us years to decide a band logo - I mean, you don't understand how long it took us to come up with a logo - so we're really glad we have this one.

3. JH: Now, since this is the first full-band interview Hexlust has ever done, I'm gonna ask everyone to go around and cite some of their individual influences. Tarzan, you're closest, we'll start with you.

Keith: Cliff Burton [of Metallica], of course. The first song I ever learned was "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)"...well, the first one was "Smoke on the Water", then it was "Anesthesia". Then, Steve Harris [of Iron Maiden], 'cause his fills are great. I pretty much just mock his fills every chance I can. Well, I wouldn't say "mock", copy [is what I'd say]. And Alex Webster [of Cannibal Corpse], because he's blond and awesome [laughs], and probably like eight-hundred other bassists that I can't think of, but those three are always together.

Dartanion: For me, on top of everything, is Tommy Lee [of Motley Crue] and Dave Grohl [of Nirvana/Foo Fighters]. Then, as far as my direct influences for Hexlust, it's Igor Cavalera [of Sepultura], and...what's his name?

Tony: Dave Lombardo?

Dartanion: Pete Sandoval! [Everyone laughs] Igor Cavalera and Pete Sandoval [of Morbid Angel] are the main ones. I've been playing a lot of Sepultura songs, and that's mainly it in terms of direct influences for Hexlust.

JT: Me, well the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place, love him or hate him, is because of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. I mean, I know a lot of people think he's an asshole, and he kinda is most of the time, but [he's a] great guitarist regardless. As far as a direct influence on Hexlust, definitely Trey Azagthoth from Morbid Angel, I worship the ground that he walks on for his guitar playing. Who else? Kreator, love Kreator, "Pleasure to Kill", pretty much everything up to "Coma of Souls". I love Finnish death metal, Antti Boman [of Demilich] is really good, pretty much any old-school death metal band you could think of that isn't Cannibal Corpse. [Everyone laughs]

Tony: As far as influences for playing guitar, it would have to be Eddie Van Halen, I really liked his stuff from the first three or four albums. Piggy from Voivod and Daisy Berkowitz from Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids. I really like his stuff because of his tones. Now, as far as the band is concerned, I guess you could say rhythm-wise, Max Cavalera from Sepultura. I really like his complex rhythms, especially on the album "Schizophrenia", "Beneath the Remains", "Arise", all those great albums [JT nods in agreement]. Also, I forgot the guitarist's name for Sarcofago...

JH: Wagner?

JT: Wagner?

Dartanion: After "INRI", Wagner took over on guitar.

Tony: Wagner "Antichrist", "The Laws of Scourge", on that album his tones are amazing. I try to mimic those tones very, very closely, that's why I have that chorus sound. That's pretty much for the band.

4. JH: How is a typical Hexlust song written and arranged?

Tony: I come up with the skeleton riffs, just whatever comes across my mind. I'll start playing and if I really like it, we'll unfortunately come across cryptonesia, which Dart will explain in a second. It's something that's plagued our band recently, so Dart, I'll let you take care of the rest.

Dartanion: Well, basically...[a puppy wanders into the rehearsal space]...Puppy! [Pets dog]

JH: I'm including that. [Everyone laughs]

Dartanion: Basically, cryptonesia is when you unwittingly rip somebody off thanks to your subconscious memory. You think you've invented something new and awesome-tastic when in fact somebody has already done it before, and that has happened to us a couple of times and it's one of our biggest obstacles when writing songs.

Keith: Like, JT wrote "Leprosy" [by Death], something from "Blessed Are The Sick" [by Morbid Angel], and just recently, "Gorgoroth" by Gorgoroth.

JT: I wrote "Antichrist", by Gorgoroth from the "Antichrist" album.

Tony: What was something you and I wrote? Bass-wise, I remember you were playing it and was like...

Keith: Sarcofago? "Nightmare"? Yeah, but it's a little different, though, and I'm going to use that riff somewhere. [Everyone laughs]

JT: Eventually, Tony writes a lot of the main chunks of riffs, and Keith and Dart usually figure out how to get it all going. I suck at writing riffs, I aLways have, apparently [laughs], but, I mean, I'm known in the band as usually giving the one or two riffs in a song where it just meshes it together and it completes the song. That's usually how it goes.

Keith: I'm trying to write a little more to help Tony come up with awesome riffs and songs.

JT: And I'm trying to come up with more riffs.


5. JH: The Hexlust tunes that are available online and on the demo are very gritty and raw, and very reminiscent of "Morbid Visions" in terms of production...

JT: [Fist pumps] Yes!

JH: That is a compliment.

Dartanion: That is exactly what we were trying to be back then.

JH: [Returning to original question] Would you ever think to re-record those songs with cleaner production, or stick with the old, grimy goodness?

Dartanion: Yeah, [we would] absolutely re-record them. If not just to get a cleaner sound, or whatever, not just because of that, but because we can play them better now.

JT: And faster!

Keith: We play them faster. The old recordings, when I listen to them...when we recorded them, we were like "Wow, this is the fastest we've ever played", and now I listen to it and think, "Wow, we were [in falsetto] slow!"

Tony: Like [Sepultura's] "Troops of Doom 1990" versus "Troops of Doom 1985".

Dartanion: Exactly.

JT: That's kind of our philosophy in this band, we like to slow things down, but we pretty much play fast, all the time, as much as possible.

Keith: King Fowley [of Deceased] told us that, he shook our hands and said "You're fast!"

JT: King Fowley from Deceased, that was awesome.

6. JH: And on that note, are there any plans for any future recordings? [Looks at JT, everyone laughs]

Keith: JT's been promising somebody! So what have you been promising, JT? [Laughs]

JT: I've just been promising the people that new songs are being written - which they are...

Dartanion: They are.

JH: I've heard them!

JT: ...And as soon as we polish them up we'll record them as soon as we can. I told people, and I'm teling you this now [looks at camera, everyone laughs], the reason why we're not rushing to record is, as a band, we're not worried about how many records we sell, we're not worried about being signed, we're worried about writing the best possible music we can, and however long that takes, that's just the time it'll take. If it's going to be eight songs of fantastic music we would rather have that than have eight songs of garbage. So, I'm sorry, but I'm really not [everyone laughs].

7. JH: Hexlust have quite a few songs written that haven't been recorded, and I'm going to list them and whoever wants to say some of their thoughts on them, can.

JT: I think that's going to be all of us.

JH: "Baphomet Dawn"

Tony: When we first started recording the demos back in 2008, we had like, two riffs that [were] going to be "Baphomet Dawn", and before "Fucked by Fire", that was the longest song we took, it took us a year and a half to write that song. So now, I'm more than happy to record this song, of course it's eventually going to be recorded. I think it doesn't need any further polishing, I like it the way it is.

Dartanion: Pretty much, it's our long, slow, epic song.

JT: I remember when we first started jamming on that song, we couldn't find a middle part, and one day at practice I was just dicking around, and came up with the middle part.

Dartanion: Yes, perfect example of JT being the riff-saver.

Keith: None of us can figure out how the hell it's supposed to be played...

JT: I know how it's supposed to be played! [Laughs]

Keith: Like, we tried, and we were supposed to be jamming with somebody, and he was like "Hey, why don't you hop in on this?" and we tried showing him it and couldn't.

Dartanion: We can't think about it, we just have to play it.

JT: It's one of those things. It's definitely our slowest song, and I love it.

Dartanion: [It's] very heavy.

JH: Next up, "Fucked by Fire".

Dartanion: That song has gone through a lot of different incarnations, Tony had that written back in 2008 and we thought we had a completed version of it. Then, we hated it and tried to change it up, then we got stuck. Almost two years later, Tony finally completed it and Tony added lyrics. That's the first step for Hexlust into more...I don't want to say "technical" because we're not that good [laughs]...just wackier songs. There we go, wackier songwriting with wackier riffs.

Tony: It's not linear thrash with [just] open-A...

JT: It's not shitty new Bay Area thrash metal! [Everyone laughs]

Keith: Now we'll never play the Bay Area! [Laughs]

JT: Sorry, someone had to say it. [Laughs]

Dartanion: Next song.

JH: "Meganecropolis".

Keith: "Meganecropolis" is my second brainchild for Hexlust...After jamming on [the first song] for a month...we just decided to ditch that song and move on to "Meganecropolis", I had one riff that I jammed with Tony on, and then a year later I started forming other riffs around it, then I jammed with Dart, he helped me and we showed it to Tony and JT and Tony learned the riffs and then JT came up with that melodic middle part. Dart wrote the lyrics and it is completed, or at least near-completed. I originally wrote lyrics for it, but Dart decided he could do a better job and he did do a better job, and we're deciding to go with his.

JH: Well done, Dart!

Dartanion: Thanks.

JH: Next, "Hellhammer".

Dartanion: Little backstory, after "Baphomet Dawn", which at that point was our most complex, most technical song, Tony decided to jump in the opposite direction and write the most primitive song he could think of.

Tony: I locked myself in your room to write that one! [Laughs]

Dartanion: It started off [as] he was supposed to write riffs that kinda were inspired by Hellhammer and old Celtic Frost and it ended up being just a massive tribute.

Tony: And it is not a cover!

Entire band: It's not a cover!

JT: People think it's a cover, and that leads me to believe that none of you who say it's a cover have ever listened to Hellhammer. [Laughs]

Dartanion: Thanks, JT, now we're gonna get out asses kicked! [Everyone laughs]

Keith: [As if transcribing] "Omit JT's thoughts".

JT: Again, someone had to say it! [Everyone laughs again]

JH: Next one, "Imminent Retardation".

Tony: That one was originally supposed to be an instrumental...we actually played it back in 2009. There's actually a video on YouTube of us...

Dartanion: Our "Fuck Austin" video? [Everyone laughs]

JH: That one?

Tony: [Laughs] I said that because I was [mad] at the traffic!

JH: "This Scene Sucks" [Everyone laughs]

Tony: Yeah, then Keith and Dartanion approached me and said "We need to write lyrics" and I said "You're crazy, no lyrics would fit there!" Dart came to me with this idea of lyrics. He gave me them, and I hated them! [Everyone laughs] Except for Keith's parts, I loved Keith's parts, so I wrote around that part and it came out pretty good. It's kind of something like "Idiocracy", like the musical version of "Idiocracy".

Dartanion: It's kind of our only "social commentary" song where we're just talking about our dissatisfaction with the world.

Tony: It's a warning - cherish your brain, 'cause it could go away!

Dartanion: That's why I wanted lyrics to be in it, because I feel like we actually had something to say and to not actually say something would be a waste.

JT: I think out of all our Hexlust songs, that one is probably our most technical song.

Dartanion: It doesn't help that it's non-stop fast.

Keith: That's the hardest song, I think, to play for me.

Tony: The sad thing is, we added lyrics to it, and I sang it, and was like "We sound like Birth A.D." [Laughs]

JT: But that's a good thing!

Entire band: Hi, Jeff!

Tony: We love your stuff! [Laughs]

JH: Last, but not least, "They Conjure".

Tony: That's another song I wrote, it's based off the movie "Hocus Pocus", but instead of sucking the kid's souls, it's ripping the children's hearts out and eating them, lyric-wise. When I first played the riffs, JT thought it sounded like...ah, what's that Death song?

JT: "Lack of Comprehension". [Everyone laughs]

Tony: I was thinking it sounded more like the opening to the first King Diamond song from "Fatal Portrait", "Jonah", I believe that's what it's called. Dart helped a lot and Keith helped a lot. They re-wrote some of the beginning to fit the odd timings and it just came out, and we're very proud of it.


9. JH: All right, completely shifting away from that question, the songs that have been recorded were recorded in 2008. Do you have any notable stories from whenever you were recording?

Keith: Oh God, "Sodomy and Lust"! [Entire band laughs] See, I was never good at that song and I would follow the guitar, which I was not supposed to do, apparently, I did not know that at the time.

Dartanion: In the middle part, or are you talking about the song overall?

Keith: The whole song, that's what I was doing, and when we were recording, it was just drums and bass, so I had no idea where I was so I struggled for a couple of takes. And then, the middle part...[makes guitar onomatopoeia]...that part I could not get right. We spent an hour or an hour-and-a-half, twelve, eight-hundred takes on it, and then Dart commented on it and said "Well, you know we could get the old bass player to come in and do that"...

JH: Ouch! [Laughs]

Keith: ...And I was like [in death metal growl] "NO!" I held up my sword and shield on that like I was preparing for battle, I told him "No, we're just gonna stop here, I'm gonna go home, practice the shit out of this riff, and we're gonna come back tomorrow and do it on the first take." Came back tomorrow, did it on the second take.

Tony: This was also the song that revealed JT's Achilles Heel...

JT: Oh yeah, let me tell you this story! I was playing "Sodomy and Lust" for what, six, seven months before we recorded the song? But the [bad] thing about that was, I was playing it wrong the entire time! So instead of [sings riff], I was going [sings different riff]. I was playing it wrong the entire time and it took me many tries? Twenty, thirty?

Dartanion: A bunch.

JT: Maybe thirty or forty tries before I finally had to do the Keith method and say "fuck it, I'm just gonna go home and practice."

Tony: I think my most memorable parts of the recording is when we were doing our solos, I did all my solos in one take, and JT many takes? [Laughs]

JT: It was like, twenty. Another moment: When I was doing my solo for "Toxic High", Dart was [in the bathroom] and he came out and was like, "DUDE! That was amazing!"

[Everyone laughs]

Tony: I think all three of them would agree that the defining moment was when I did vocals, and that was the first time I ever did a falsetto scream, and they didn't think I could do that. You can just imagine a guy standing in a hallway with just headphones on and all of a sudden you just hear [makes falsetto scream].

JT: It sounded terrible when he was recording it!

Keith: Like, he did that the first time, just the vocals, and I hung my head down and was like "Oh no, are we really going to put that on this song?" And we played it back and were like "that is amazing!"

Tony: So many Slayer comments when we posted that...

10. JH: JT, you've been living in San Antonio for the last few months, how has that affected the band?

JT: I've been living in San Antonio since August of 2010, and I'm not gonna lie, it's been brutal. It's been really hard, 'cause I mean, I've been with this band over three years now and these guys are like my family, so it's like...I don't get to play music that much anymore, I only play guitar by myself, and I mean...these guys are the best musicians I've ever played with or will play with, 'cause I'm going to be with this band as long as I can be. But it's been tough and I only get to go down [to Killeen] every two or three months. And like you saw tonight, when we all practice together, it's like we're playing a show. So that high energy we have during shows [is also there] when we get together and practice. And I y'all do the same thing when I'm not here? What is practicing like when I'm not here?

Keith: Sometimes we get into it, but...

Dartanion: For the most part it's very relaxed.

Keith: Yeah, 'cause that's when we're crunching out the hard stuff and we're concentrating on whatever new material we're doing.

JT: But thanks to [software] Guitar Pro, and Keith's recording equipment, they can send me the new stuff that we've been writing and I learn it.

Tony: It's pretty hard, though, having a guitarist who's two hours're playing and you look back [in the practice space] and there's no sound coming from that corner, you're not seeing anything.

Keith: I feel ya.

JT: It really sucks, man.

Tony: We miss him.

JT: I'm just glad I'm in the band still. [Laughs]

Keith: The only good news is that now, when we play in San Antonio, we have somewhere to crash and we don't have to drive back at four in the morning to crawl in bed and die.

11. JH: Now, you're from a town that, historically, is not rooted in thrash metal. What are some advantages or disadvantages to this?

Dartanion: Advantages: No real competition! [Laughs] Everything's really laid-back, and of course, when we do play shows around here, it ends up being kind of a mixed bag in a good way. Another advantage is that it bonds us, it keeps us together, like sometimes I wonder if we were in a big metal and thrash scene would one or two of us have strayed long ago when they got tired of all the humd-kery with writing songs? [Everyone laughs] Not being in a good thrash scene, the glue that holds us together is; we're all we've got. Disadvantages...

JH: You're all you've got!

JT: If someone were to quit the band, we'd be fucked.

Dartanion: That's pretty much it. I mean, it was hard putting the band together in the first place, but if someone were quit, or move to Sweden, or die, it would be bad.

Keith: And no one knows our covers. When we play "Open Casket" [by Death"] or "Agent Orange" [by Sodom], no one's heard those songs.

Dartanion: Dear Cyanide knew "Agent Orange".

Keith: That's true, there are a couple, but not a lot of people who have heard of that.

Tony: You can replace people in this band, but you can't replace the chemistry in the band.

Dartanion: Exactly.

Tony: If we lose JT to another guitarist, he wouldn't have JT's antics, he wouldn't know JT's jokes...

Dartanion: He'd be boring!

Keith: Or if we got some bearded guy to play bass!

Tony: It's just stuff like...we grew up as musicians, and that's a really strong chemistry, and I would hate for that to fall apart.


12. JH: Coming up on the end here, are there any Texas bands that you really like? Playing with, listening to, basically anyone you'd like to give a shout-out to?

Keith: Hoood! Hod, the Holy Hod! Birth A.D...who else do we play with, guys?

JT: Are you saying people we would love to play with or have played with?

JH: Both.

JT: Oh, I would kill to play with Absu. I would die if we played with Absu. I would want to play with Imprecation from Houston, Divine Eve is really good, too. Jeff A.D. from Birth A.D. got me into that band. P.L.F. is amazing, we've only played with them once but I would really like to play with them again. Aaron Goregrowler's band, Engaged in Mutilating, they're awesome! I saw them at Rites of Darkness, and I would love to play with them. And if Pyrosis ever gets going...[7/13/2015 - gee, I wonder who was in that band - Ed.]

Tony: Apart from all the bands that he just mentioned, I'd love to play with dead horse. They're probably one of the best bands. Gammacide, one of those bands who came from Texas.

JT: Oh yeah, I don't know what happened to them.

Keith: We played with Ripping Corpse.

Dartanion: No, you're thinking of Rotting Corpse.

JH: Ripping Corpse is from New Jersey, I think.

JT: Militia, I want to play with Militia from Austin again, they were really cool.

Tony: Or Watchtower, if they still play.

Dartanion: I guess as long as we're on the thing of Texas and referencing the whole "not being from a thrash scene", I would like to say "thank you" to bands around here like Painfilled Silent, Dear Cyanide, and Downsiid, who are probably the kings of the Killeen scene.

Tony: Hands Down, too.

Dartanion: And Hands Down!

Tony: Zero and Falling.

Dartanion: We've played shows with them, and they were always really nice to us and really accommodating and supportive, so even if we aren't necessarily cut from the same cloth...just, thanks to you guys for being so supportive.

Keith: Shfux are always a blast!

Dartanion: Big old thanks to Walter from Shfux.

Keith: And anyone else we may have forgotten.

13. JH: Now what about non-Texan bands? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?

Entire band: Exmortus!

Keith: Vektor! Vektor, Vektor, Vektor!

JH: What's the vector, Victor?

JT: Deceased! I would play with Deceased any day of the week. King Fowley's always been a pleasure, we've played with him three times.

Keith: Always fun, always fun.

JT: Witchaven! [Entire band echoes]

Dartanion: Those are pretty much our favorites.

Keith: There are others, I know there are others...

Tony: Shout-out to any of the Fort Worth bands, really. Insinnerator, those other black metal bands we played with...

Dartanion: Live by the Sword...

Keith: Live by the Sword! Oh my God they were so fun! [7/13/2015 - They are now the mighty Steel Bearing Hand - Ed.]

Dartanion: Preacher.

Tony: Yeah, Preacher were good.

Keith: And Amoricide, I think that's what they're called.

Tony: I wish we could play with Irony, but they unfortunately broke up.

Dartanion: Oh, and Sacrificial Blood!

Tony: They got back together and want to come to Texas! Big shout-out to Mike from Sacrificial Blood.

14. JH: Any last words, gents?

Tony: Thrash 'till Alzheimer's!

JT: And remember to keep it Hexcellent!

Tony: Come to our show, have fun!

JT: And I'm not gonna promise merch any time soon!

Tony: And when Dartanion is setting up his drums, do not talk to him! [Laughs] You don't come up to him and say [in high-pitched voice] "Dude, can I have your autograph?"

JT: He's not antisocial...

Tony: He's just really focused on his job.

Keith: Also, don't try to punch us in the face.

JH: That's good advice.

Tony: And if you want to feed us after the show, we love Lunchables!

JT: If you want to book a show, get into contact with us, because we're looking for more shows.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Initial Press Update

The first issue of Under the Sign of the Lone Star is almost depleted from its initial run.  Of the thirty made of the first run, there are fewer than five remaining that have not been spoken for.  I am averaging a turnaround time of less than a business day for shipping these out after payment, so everyone who has ordered should receive their packages shortly!

Massive thanks to all who have shown interest in this zine; it is good to be back to writing.  This very blog has already been viewed over 500 times and the Facebook page has generated nearly 138 "likes"; almost all from word-of-mouth support.  I am truly grateful for all of you.

I will do another run shortly to ensure that supply is consistent with demand.  Order by messaging the Under the Sign of the Lone Star Facebook page -- I will take things from there.  In the meantime, enjoy this slice of Texan perfection that is reviewed in the Classic Demos section:

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Proclamation: An Interview with Ciaran McCloskey of Vex, Nosferion, and In Oblivion:

Ciaran McCloskey has been kicking around the Texas metal scene for years as a guitarist and songwriter in several different bands of note.  He’s also one of the few people I know who can talk about violent black metal and English prog rock gods Gentle Giant with equal enthusiasm (the riff in “Wreck” >>>>>>>> ) .  McCloskey took the time to answer a few questions about his bands, which are divided into sections below:


1.  Vex has undergone several lineup changes over the years before settling into the present incarnation.  Describe your thoughts on the current lineup and what the future holds for it.

We've never had a better lineup than we do right now. This is true in a musical sense and down to the intricacies of personality and drive. Everyone understands without anyone having to declare it that Vex has evolved into its own entity that supersedes our own egos or any sort of conventions outside of the band. I also dig the fact that everyone brings a sense of personality into their playing that helps give our music a distinctive flavor.

Parting ways with Bill in 2013 was very difficult for us, especially Eoghan and I after roughly 14 years of the three of us serving as the creative core of the band, but it was mutually acknowledged that it was the only way to reconcile his decision to start a family with us wanting to move forward with writing and recording at a more aggressive pace. Bill is a phenomenal bass player whose sense of melody and aesthetics played a strong role in forging our musical identity. It worked out well in the end in that his replacement, Joel from Batcastle, has an innate sense of exactly the kind of playing that our current style requires; rhythmic and colorful in a way that enhances the dynamics of the arrangement.

Nothing in music is permanent so I've really no idea what the future holds, but at least in the immediate future I can easily see more songwriting and arranging contributions across the board, and as much touring as our convoluted lives will allow for, since everyone seems to dig being on the road. There's a real surge of creative energy in the band right now that is very exhilarating.

2.  Amongst the uninitiated, progressive metal can have a connotation of meandering, overlong “epics” with an overabundance of self-indulgent instrumental showboating at the expense of songwriting ability.  What separates Vex from the bands that fit that stereotype?

Great question. We were all a bit shocked when “Memorious” was released and we started to be universally hailed as a progressive metal band. This is mainly because with a few notable exceptions, none of us really have much interest in what tends to fall in that category these days, for exactly the reasons you mention, plus we're very far from technically advanced in an extreme metal sense. I'll resist the urge to name names, but it seems to me that most progressive metal bands use that label to justify overtly dissonant and disjointed explorations that are maybe interesting from a musical perspective but are almost completely unlistenable. The song should always reign supreme – it should be the reason for the sonic exploration, not the other way around. Kayo Dot is an all too rare example of a modern group that brilliantly exemplifies this principle.

I see progressive music as more of an approach then a sound, as Robert Fripp defined it some years ago, that effectively ignores any kind of musical restriction. I would say what separates us is that our progressive side is really just an inherent sense of musical curiosity, of letting our songs decide where they should go, rather than a specific influence derived from a band like Dream Theater. We do love Fates Warning though, so make of that what you will.  [The previous two paragraphs are fully backed – Ed.]

3.  What would you say are the highlights of your career with Vex, live or recording?  

The short tour we did with Agalloch last summer was not only the highlight of the band, but also the musical highlight of my life. The opportunity to share multiple stages with a band of such extraordinary magnitude, both in a general sense and to us as listeners, was an incredible experience that won't be forgotten. The crowds were much larger than what we'd become used to on the road, so it was a bit terrifying but I really felt that we all stepped up to a level of performance that exceeded what we were previously capable of. The response and encouragement that we received from the crowd and from the headliners themselves really helped to solidify our sense of confidence about what we're trying to go after musically. Directly supporting Morbid Angel for the Austin date of the “Covenant” anniversary tour was pretty incredible as well.  [That Divine Eve show in ’11 ruled too – Ed.]

The studio highlight would definitely be the recording of “Memorious.” We'd gone through hell in the three years prior trying to track the first album “Thanatopsis” and the “Circular Ruins” EP in a timely manner, and in doing so had learned many valuable lessons about how to work efficiently on our own. We'd also been turned down by three of the most prominent labels in extreme metal prior the recording, all of which gave us a variation on the line that now is the worst possible time for melodic death metal, in that it couldn't be farther removed from the type of  revivalist metal that was selling so well. This created a sense of drive and urgency that still comes through on the recording I think. The raw production was a deliberate middle finger to the industry that had made us feel so marginalized at the time. We've since signed a very rewarding deal so it's good to know that remaining firm in our conviction was the right decision.

4.  If a younger fan who was new to metal and prog discovered Vex and wanted to go back and get into your roots, what are five metal albums and five prog albums you would recommend to them?

Another great question, Lord Jake – definitely had to mull over this one a bit. First metal, then prog, each list in no particular order:

1. Garden of Shadows – Oracle Moon
2. Ved Buens Ende – Written in Waters
3. Dark Tranquility – The Mind's I
4. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
5. Bathory – Blood Fire Death

5.  I understand that Vex is experimenting with a three-guitar lineup for certain sections of newer songs.  How does this change affect the structure of the songs that use it, and are there any plans on adding additional instrumentation in Vex (live or otherwise)?

To be honest, when JJ picked up the guitar it didn't really affect the structure of the songs, it just gave me a lot more freedom with the harmony and layering for each section. It was almost by accident that we realized it really wasn't necessary to have to choose the two best guitar parts live for a three-guitar section when we have a perfectly capable third guitarist within our ranks. You can definitely expect to see more robust instrumentation in the future; JJ seems to handle guitar and vocals just fine so I've only now started writing with the specific intention of having three guitars live. We'll also continue experimenting with sampling different kinds of ambient and synth backing tracks to intensify the atmosphere a bit live.


6.  Nosferion’s debut album has been recorded, mixed, and mastered (please feel free to correct me if this is inaccurate).  What is the status on the album’s release as of January 2015?

This is correct, Lord Jake. We finished tracking it around the fall of 2011 but then went on indefinite hiatus during Seth's exile to Colorado. That probably would've been the end of the band had Melissa not stepped in last year and offered to help us get back onto the stage. The shows with her have been incredible and have inspired us to meet back up with Lord Odin to give the album a proper mix. I feel that the sound is finally right where it needs to be but the status is unfortunately questionable since we can't seem to find a label to release it. The first EP, “Burning Lifeless Eternity” was released through the UK label Blackthorne productions which to my understanding is long since defunct. There wasn't much of anything that followed the release of the EP, short of an appearance at the 2002 Sacrifice of the Nazarene Child festival – with Alex from Thornspawn filling in on drums – that was canceled for reasons that escape me right now.

7.  Nosferion seem to have a diverse set of influences ranging from the chaotic to atmospheric.  What would some of these influences be, and how to they affect the songwriting in Nosferion?

Nosferion works from a very limited palette. This was the intention when Tyler and I started demoing songs in the early 2000s, as a sort of exuberant response to all the great underground USBM that was thriving at the time, stuff like Black Witchery, Judas Iscariot, Blood Storm, Grand Belial's Key, etc. – these groups helped to ignite our own love of Hellhammer and Darkthrone and mold it into some sort of nihilistic self-expression. It was intensely liberating at the time and it still is. Since then our sound has evolved into all kinds of strange places that I honestly can't account for. It probably has something to do with the influence of Rory Gallagher, Hill Country Landscapes and 16 Horsepower records.

8.  Nosferion is associated with the phrase “Feel the Hate”.  Is this a hatred towards the self (i.e. “Inner War”), a hatred towards others (i.e. “I Hope You Die”), or is it open to personal interpretation?

Our hatred is all encompassing. Our work precedes from a sort of scorched-earth policy that spares no one. We hate ourselves as much as we hate the depraved souls who for whatever reason are choosing to lap up what we're vomiting onto the stage. Shitty venues, inadequate sound systems and small-to-nonexistent crowds are encouraged, but not necessary. Our product is not meant to be enjoyed by one, or accepted by any community or scene.

In Oblivion:

9.  Since In Oblivion is a fairly new band, please provide a brief explanation of the music, origin, and band members.

In Oblivion is the brainchild of Justin Buller, mainly known for his work with the local death metal band Manifestation since about 2005. He and I shared a few stages during the mid 2000s and began bonding over mutual worship of Shape of Despair, Skepticism, Evoken, Thergothon, etc., during which time I was thrilled to learn that he had written several funeral doom albums of his own. This style is very much on the fringes of the underground, so I don't think he ever expected to find a band that could perform these songs live, but we've gradually making that happen since then. Andy is a bassist from South Texas whom I've known since about 2003, when he was gigging around the state with the thrash band Hammerwhore, and Shane is originally a guitarist/singer whom I met through gigging with his death/grind band VBT around 2011. It was awesome to find out that both of these cats harbored a fondness for doom metal, because they each come from the sort of vastly different backgrounds that makes playing together so much fun. We are all very busy with our jobs and our other bands, so unfortunately progress has been about as slow as the riffs are, but we've recently recorded a debut EP that will hopefully be unleashed very soon along with a few debut performances.


10.  Do you agree with the following sentence?  If not, please explain:  “Art is what one creates in order to prevent going insane?”

I can certainly stand behind that. Songwriting is essentially my of way to trying to process and understand both the world and the strange people who inhabit it. More significantly, it's also my bridge away from the mundane into something much more significant and transcendental. I need this, and I think everyone else does as well. I really can't even fathom what kind of strange spiritual path my life would've taken had music not afforded me this opportunity.

There have been periods in my life – grad school for example – that didn't allow for much time to write or perform music, and the result was something that felt a lot like insanity. The songs didn't stop coming in; in fact they only came through with more urgency in my attempt to silence them. I felt a bit like a raving lunatic with all of this nonexistent music keeping me awake and knocking against the hinges of my skull.

11:  Along those lines, do you think that obscurity is a positive or negative (or a combination of both) fate for an artist?  Please explain.

This is a very intense question that tends to weigh on my mind a bit these days. I think obscurity is a very liberating path, but it can certainly feel very negative to see an artist fall short of proper recognition for what they do, especially if it affects their ability to continue performing. On the one hand, discovering an artist like this on your own can be very exciting, but on the other hand you can't help but wonder if more recognition would've granted them the resources that they would have needed to continue and thrive. Personally I'd be fine with obscurity as long as it allows me to keep shoveling coal into the engine without pawing my guitars.

12:  Now that the philosophy examination is over, please rank your favorite Bathory albums in order.

Blood Fire Death, Under the Sign of the Black Mark, Hammerheart, The Return, Twilight of the Gods

13.  As this publication is focused on Texan bands, what are some of your favorite bands from this state to see and listen to?

When I think of Texas Metal as a whole, my mind always harkens back to high school when I first discovered Divine Eve, Absu, Necrovore and Solitude Aeternus, all of which left a very strong impression. It was an incredible thing to discover these groups and to learn that extreme metal was not a strictly European phenomenon, that it could be produced here in Texas with a sense of pride and distinction. They remain my favorite Texas Metal groups to this day.

14.  Any final words for the readers of Under the Sign of the Lone Star?

Onward and upward.