Wednesday, August 28, 2019


This is a mixed bag.  But that's how I like it.  A lot of different sounds going on with all these records so do like Kauto says an "open your miiiiinnnnddddd..."
CEREMONY, “In the Spirit World Now”
I haven’t really kept up with Ceremony since freakin’ “Rohnert Park”, so, you know, I’m behind the curve.  I’m well aware that they have changed their sound significantly since that time and all that talk about artistic growth and trying new things is all well and good.  However, this may be the same band members, but they’re a completely different band now.  There’s really nothing present in their sound that has anything to do with the band that infamously sung, “Thunder and lightning protect me from God/ I won’t be skullfucked by faith, I am the upside down cross” (it’s a really good line by the way).  On “In the Spirit World Now”, a record whose cover looks as if Trapper Keeper was commissioned to reinterpret the art from a Genesis album, Ceremony go full-on 80’s.  It’s kind of weird and I’m a bit conflicted about how I feel about it all.  I mean, I lived through the 80’s.  Like the entire decade.  There’s a lot about that time that has not aged well.  There’s points where Ceremony is referencing everything from Gary Numan to Echo and the Bunnymen, which works.  But sometimes the heavy use of synthesizers almost feels forced in a way that screams ‘GET IT?  WE LIKE THE 80’s NOW!’  Still, they get a pat on the back for writing “We Can Be Free”, the best Devo song not actually written by Devo since “Oh No, It’s Devo!” (“Never Gonna Die Now” comes in a close second but edges into early SoCal punk territory).  I can enjoy most of this record in a non-ironic way, even though these guys could have made a killing serving up music for a wacky montage scene in a Judge Reinhold buddy comedy with what they dished out here.  (Relapse)

CLOUD RAT, “Pollinator”
What a fucking way to open an album, holy shit.  Cloud Rat: “give us a minute and change to blast yr fuckin’ face off.  Oh, and we have an entire album to go.  Thanks, see you in hell.”  There is a total perfection of the sort of technical precision that takes ages for bands to get down, yet tempered with that sort of loose and wild aggression, and Cloud Rat has it in spades. Usually bands either get boring because they get bogged down in technicality, or (as is often the case with grind bands) they kind of suck because they’re sloppy and go 100% with just playing fast without considering much else.  Cloud Rat certainly give you both the technicality and the looseness to keep it exciting.  I really caught on to this group with their last proper full length “Qliphoth” (which was already their third if I’m keeping track correctly) and was astounded by it’s original take on grind music by adding lots of atmospherics, dynamics, tempo changes, and still being pretty crust as fuck.  Since then they have released about 1000 splits and I’m not sure how they keep cranking out quality material at such a dizzying pace.  And somehow they have managed to gather the cream of the crop- 14 tracks- and cram them into this astounding new full length.  It certainly picks up where “Qliphoth” left off, but with a sharper production and cleaner sound overall.  I’d say it incorporates big, epic melodies just as often (if not more) as their last LP, but doesn’t slow the pace into more atmospheric songs as often.  Instead, those melodies are paired with raging blast beats from easily one of the best drummers in the game right now, or they are transformed into gutclobbering breakdowns.  “The Mad” and “Webspinner” may be the strongest examples of being melodically aggressive and layering it over those wild blasts. Meanwhile, “Al Di La” tosses in a section right in the middle that would make Cold As Life run for cover, and they do it like it’s no thing. Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around how Cloud Rat do it.  They’re just a trio- vocals, drums, guitar, that’s it.  A constantly impressive band doing incredibly good stuff.  Oh, and just for the fuck of it, they made a companion record to go with this called “Don’t Let Me Fall Off the Cliff” which is all chillwave/goth-y/folksy mellow music.  Ya know, just because they had the time.  Fuck me, right?  Get this at all costs.  (Artefact)

GLOOP, “Smiling Lines”
Gloop have made some big strides in a short amount of time.  Their last record, “The Tourist” was released last year and they’re already back with a new one.  They continue with their hyperactive weirdo punk, but things sound significantly bigger, more confident, and even further into bizarro land. Of note, there is ore emphasis than before on the vocals, which are probably the wildest aspect of this group and I’m reminded pretty heavily of Brainiac, minus any synthesizers.  They just have a way of being heavily abrasive, but wacky and completely uncontrolled at the same time.  It’s cool to see what Gloop are continuing to do in their relatively short tenure, thus far, as a band.  From the more punk/weirdo corner of the noise rock spectrum Gloop’s in a pretty good position, if you ask me, to aggravate and annoy a bigger crowd with just how well they do whatever weird shit they get up to.  I enjoy it, that’s for sure.  (Grimiore Records)

If you can make out what they’re screaming about here via the death growls straight from a cave Kalki leave no room for poetry as they are lyrically extremely blunt in regards to our current political station.  Song titles like “Embrace the Hate”, “Fake News”, “Enemy Of the People”, and “Massacre At Home” make it all the more clear as Kalki deliver nine metallic crushers on their formal debut after an initial demo.  This is their most realized effort to date and mingles those echo’ed growls with musty death metal, crusty grind, and slow, dirge-y hardcore grime.  I know, that’s a lot of deep cleaning to do, but Syracuse is kind of a grimy town so you’ll understand where these characters are coming from.  And I’m sure they’ll love this, but I hear just a touch of old Blood Runs Black and Damnation AD in a couple of the songs.  That’s a good thing, whether intentional or not.  Give ‘em a whirl, see what the big skull pile on the cover is all about.  (Cult Of Nine Records)

MULTICULT, “Simultaneity Now”
Multicult are a band that are all incredibly masterful players who have all their tones dialed in perfect, their recordings sound amazing, they build their own guitar pedals, and have checked off bands like Jesus Lizard, Big’n, and Dazzling Killmen as reference points that they often exceed in terms of potent delivery.  So if that impresses you, and it should, Multicult will deliver the goods on this, their fourth record, with nary a reason for complaint.  I feel like maybe they can get a little too in their own head, or perhaps go over other’s head at times, and don’t always roll with a good hook when it presents itself.  But that is made up for how they steamroll you with incredible use of tone and rhythm, while guitar skronk rips you in half; usually all within the space of two minutes.  Multicult have consistently sharpened their sound over their productive time as a band and it shows with each record the progress they achieve.  They work on new tricks, perfect well-worn ones, and fans will know exactly what they’re getting and be impressed with what they hear.  And that’s not a bad thing at all, is it?  (Learning Curve/ Reptilian)

SOME GIFTS, “Facts?!?”
My man Vic Lazar has played in impressive bands since the mid-90’s and I became aware of these groups not long after moving to Buffalo in ’97.  Since that time, and about 25 bands later, my man has settled in the LA area and this is his second record with this Left Coast group.  And once again, it’s an impressive collection of indie rock where the vocals sound like David Lee Roth putting Cheap Trick through a blender.  It’s pretty wild and gives the music an added dimension.  Musically, if you’re a fan of stuff J. Robbins has done (Burning Airlines, Office Of Future Plans), later-era Braid, or current groups like Prawn you will probably get some enjoyment out of this.  I bring up the vocals again because music of this sort is often accompanied by a sing-y, or sensitive kinds of vocals, but here it’s a little more wild and I like the way it’s somewhat out-of-type for these kinds of bands.  So good on them for some originality.  Of course, the musicianship is wonderful and balances a knack for wanting to noodle around and show off chops with just fucking rocking out.  They bring some fun to the table with the aforementioned qualities, as well as funny song titles like “Business Casual Is Killing Me”, and some great children doing back-ups on album opener “Deregulate It”. (self-released)

UV-TV, “Happy”
I took  a chance on this just off of hearing  a couple parts of songs and isn’t it a great feeling when it pays off?  To just randomly come across something that you end up really liking? Such is the case for NYC-by-way-of-Gainesville group UV-TV.  Their new LP is a quick burst of garage-y, shoegaze-y punk that feels like it goes by super quick over it’s 9 songs.  Some of the tracks take on a rapid fire pace, like “Sand” while others take a drawn out, psychedelic approach, such as the shuffling “Walk” (which takes a turn to a more upbeat pace halfway through).  But one of the best songs on this whole thing is A-side closer “World” and it’s dreamy meandering, coupled with soaring vocals.  Speaking of which, the vocals take a strong position in this band as they range from poppy and full of excitement, to ethereal and somewhat somber.  They certainly offer a strong foundation to this group’s sound.  My only complaint would be that, at times, the drumming feels way too busy and disjointed for the sound of this group, particularly in the songs that go for faster tempo shifts.  The drumming seems to be playing quicker than the band is trying to go and it feels out of place.  The rest of the time things are on point.  So, here’s to taking chances and discovering a fun new record to check out.  I suggest you give it a try as well.  (Deranged)

Monday, August 26, 2019


Here is a release that I had almost nothing to do with!  This was the first of (so far) only two releases I’ve ever done partnering with another label.  So on my end things were pretty hands off. 
And now for the back story- for several years I had been going to Gainesville Fest (or just affectionately known as ‘Fest’) and pretty much every year I’d come across a few bands that I’d never heard of that I found to be quite enjoyable, along with some of the obvious bigger bands that would play that were a lot of fun too.  Every year upon arrival at Fest people would check in, get their wristbands, hang out a bunch, and pour through the book you’d get describing each band (of like 150) playing, as well as the schedule for the weekend.  So in addition to the bands I knew of that I wanted to see I’d usually read a good description of a few bands that sounded interesting enough to take a chance on.
One of those years as I’m reading the guide I came across a band called Ex-Breathers.  They were a relatively local band (Tallahassee to be exact) and whatever was said about them made me pretty dead set to see if the description was true.  Well, it was and they ruled and their set kicked the shit out of me.
The real power behind this record

I kept up with them after that and eventually asked about doing a record of some sort with them.  Not long after they asked if I wanted to get in on a 4-way comp they were working on putting out as a joint venture between themselves, Community Records out of New Orleans, and myself.  The Ex-Breathers guys picked the other bands to share the comp with so I didn’t have much say in it.  I basically was just pitching in to ensure the thing came out.  I wasn’t so sure what to think about it, but the commitment was fairly minor, and it eventually led to me releasing the next Ex-Breathers LP (the only other record I have since co-released).  So overall it was well worth it.
Since I was fairly unfamiliar with the other bands here’s a little bit about each of them:
Ex-Breathers gettin' gory

Ex-Breathers:  three guys from Florida who aimed to be like Fugazi, but always sounded a little more thrashy and heavy.  Sure, there was plenty of post-hardcore love in the vein of Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu kinds of riffing (as well as a DIY aesthetic that drove them), but they had some wild energy that came straight out of hardcore, which made the music a bit more aggressive often.  Their three songs on this push that mix between mathy and weird, and driving and loose.
Ovlov in their element

Ovlov:  I knew nothing about this band but soon grew to greatly enjoy them.  They only added one song to this comp, but it’s a winner.  This Massachusetts-based group made very obvious their love for Dinosaur Jr and to me that was a fine path to take- heavy and melodic, super-fuzzy, slacker rock.  This song goes more in a Sabbath-y, sludge direction, which is a bit out of character for them but I dig it nonetheless.  They have since released two awesome full lengths through the reputable Exploding In Sound Records.

Woozy, whom I sadly never got to see

Woozy:  Well, I knew nothing about this band either.  Sadly, I also never had the chance to see them do their thing as they split up not too long after releasing an LP of their own.  However, their quirky mix of noodly guitar work, alternating and soothing vocals, and out-of-nowhere over-driven sludgy rock made them a unique part of this comp.  Their two songs on this are like two distinctly different personalities meeting up for a weird game of chess.  Since their demise the only thing I am aware of is guitarist/vocalist Kara Stafford has joined Thou.

Gnarwhal, a duo of impeccable hair

Gnalwhal:  This duo was probably the most eclectic of the bunch on this record as they delivered two tracks of wild, loopy, and weird indie stuff.  Mixing the incredibly intricate fretboard gymnastics and surreal drumming of bands like Hella, but with a slightly more centered approach, this Nashville band was quite the surprise to close out the B-side.  I’m not sure if Gnarwhal still considers themselves a band, but I know guitarist Chappy Hull is a full time member of Pile now, while drummer Tyler Coburn does time in both Yautja and Thou.


So that’s about all I have to say with this comp.  It was something I had little involvement in, but it yielded great results because it led me to release a full length for a band I adored, as well as introducing me to three other bands that all went on to do some very interesting stuff.

AND I happen to have exactly ONE copy of this cool LP left.  It's yours for $6GET IT HERE.
If you only roll digital head over to Community Records and check it out through them. 

Monday, August 19, 2019


“Tell a joke!”
“Don’t worry, we’re about to play 11 of them.”
The infamous first utterances between the audience and band right before the very first Dialysis show in 2012.
I’ll never forget that.  And, right off the bat, can I state how awkward it is to write about my own band?  I know, I’ve done this more than once since starting this project, but I am committed to doing something about every record released through this label.  And just to warn you, there’s a few more Dialysis records to go.  So let’s get weird, shall we?
Dialysis was born out of boredom and down time for the long-running Syracuse black metal group Ebony Sorrow.  The duo of John Bukowski and Matt Calabrese has been the core of the group for most of their existence, going back to the early 2000s.  So at a point when that band was not doing much the two began fucking around with writing extremely short, spur-of-the-moment punk/grind songs.  On a larf, I can only assume, John messaged me to see if I would be interested in putting vocals to these short bursts of ridiculousness.  I should, at this point, point out that John has been a close friend for probably around 20 years.  His family lived right near my mom’s house and this awkward, geeky metal teenager would regularly walk over to her house to see if I was home and drop off bootlegged cassettes he would make by bringing a tape recorder to shows and recording bands live sets.  I didn’t ask for the cassettes.  He was just nice enough to think of me.  What a guy.  We’ve been friends ever since.
On the other hand, I barely knew Matt Calabrese.  I knew who he was, and that he played drums, and played exceptionally well.  But we didn’t really know each other.  Well, that guy is kind of out of his mind as well I soon learned and it’s made the experience of being in a band together pretty damn entertaining.
But back to being asked to be in a band with John.  We had previously had a ‘project’ together back in the late 90’s not too long after becoming friends called Human Shield and it was terrible.  It was intentionally a joke band.  None of us could play worth a shit and the whole idea was to ruin other’s peoples good times with random acts of destruction.  We would show up to something, sort of play, and break a lot of stuff, or pull awful pranks.  If I was maybe 15 it would have been excusable, but I was older than that and probably should have known better.  But there were some pretty clever pranks shoehorned into all the immaturity and recklessness.
So John plays me these rough room-recording Dialysis songs and I’m already hesitant about doing a Human Shield Part Two.  I hear what they got, let them know that these songs need a little extra to them, like at least 10 seconds of material to go with the 15 they already have, and see if they actually want to follow through with it.  And lo and behold, they actually did put some work into them!  So at this point I felt obligated to at least give it a shot.  Plus, I had no band at the time so why not, right?  We met up a few times, worked out a few of these songs, and then somehow started writing more of them.  And then we got to talking about other bands we all really liked and wrote some more stuff and before we knew it we had a demo.  I was kind of surprised actually.
inside art from the Dialysis demo

The notion of just having a guitarist and drummer to go with vocals made writing very effortless.  It was incredibly economical and there wasn’t too much in the way of decision-making.  I enjoyed the simplicity of just playing really fast, really short songs with a drummer who could run circles around anyone else any day of the week.  So we eventually put things to the test and played a show.  And a first show led to several more, and then some out-of-town gigs (which, if you can tour in a minivan with just a guitar cab, head, and drums I highly suggest it.  It’s soooo easy), and before you know it, it got kind of real.
I think of Dialysis as just being fun.  It’s a way for the three of us to dig into our love of music across a very wide spectrum and fuck around with those influences in the form of short, fast songs.  Plus, we all have a warped sense of humor and I personally feel like punk music should be fun while being energetic and ripping at the same time.  It’s totally possible to convey serious topics while still being humorous and that’s what Dialysis aims to do.
And I have always been one, at least with my bands, to not wait around for someone else to offer us a record when I know full well how to do it on my own.  So once I felt that Dialysis was serious enough (in terms of writing, recording, and playing out) to be a continuing project, while still being a lot of fun, I put out our first seven inch.  The title was obvious since we are all big Spaceballs fans- “Ludicrous Speed”.  And so with that I may as well get Evil John on the line and get his impressions of this ridiculous and fun record.

So it is weird to interview my own band.  However, you and Matt have a sort of different perspective because you started the band before I joined.

Yeah, I guess that’s sort of true.  We wrote four or five of those demo songs before we thought about giving them to you.  We were going to see what you thought of them.  And I didn’t want to sing because I was already doing that in Ebony Sorrow and we didn’t know who else to get, ya know?  You had recorded that one Ebony Sorrow song with us and that went really well.

Is that why you had asked me?

Yeah, and we loved the way it came out.  It also got to be that Ebony Sorrow was writing a bunch of songs that sounded like that one you were on that we had to stop because it wasn’t really what Ebony Sorrow was about.  Like the song “Hot For Preacher” on the Dialysis demo was an Ebony Sorrow song at first, and we even had it in our set for a bit.  So when more of the songs started sounding like that I thought, ‘wait a minute, we have to break this off and do something different because this doesn’t really sound like a black metal band anymore.’  So after you recorded that one song with us I thought you might be a good person to ask about doing this new thing, which was stuff that was kind of too punk for Ebony Sorrow, and that became Dialysis.

I thought you all just had down time, like the rest of the band wasn’t doing anything so you and Matt started writing Dialysis songs.

That’s how a lot of that stuff came about.  There would be a lot of days where Jay Bailey (other Ebony Sorrow guitarist at the time) wasn’t available.  So we would just start ripping out some of these tunes and once it became apparent that it would be just me and Matt that’s when we wrote “Sedative” (on the Dialysis demo and 7”) and “Opposable Thumbs” (Dialysis demo) and that’s where those ones started off.
If I remember correctly we sent you a few shitty recordings to see how you would take to them/

You sent me like six songs!  And they were all like 10 seconds and I was like, ‘these aren’t songs, write some more shit.’  I remember I was rather blunt about it because I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to be in a band.

I remember that!  I remember you were iffy about it.  But here we are, years later.

Seriously.  Why does this continue?

We just don’t know any better.  At our age what else are we going to do?  Let’s get in van, buy a few records, and play for like two kids.

That’s true.  I see that a lot of people we’re friends with in our age group still doing bands, but they’re more serious about the music, and less serious about playing out because they have adult lives.  We’re like the opposite.

(laughs)  At the end of the day if it’s not fun, why bother?  I mean, we’re really just playing for ourselves and maybe 20 of our friends.  And if we’re lucky enough sometimes we play out of town and it’s good.  It’s really just an inside joke for all of us and that’s what makes it so great.

Yeah, honestly.  So was that your intent?  Start a fun punk band and make jokes?

Not really.  That wasn’t the intention at all.  We wanted to have punk parts, but I wanted it to be grind-y like Nasum and Terrorizer, and I wanted it to have Aus Rotten parts as well because that’s the shit I was really listening to at the time.  I just ended up writing all this stuff and here it is.  It ended up not being like anything I had envisioned, it’s better to me.
Originally, when we started jamming this stuff we were going to have Gabe Hamm play guitar too (local Syracuse guitarist from a million bands, currently of Kalki), and I wanted to write riffs with him and have two guitar players.  It didn’t end up working out.

I did not know Gabe was going to be part of the band!

Before I even sent you anything I was writing parts and I thought, ‘Gabe knows punk, let’s jam with Gabe!’  We just couldn’t coordinate schedules.  We  wrote some riffs together once.  He was going to play guitar and we were going to figure out a bass player later.

We’re still figuring that out.

(laughs) Right!  We haven’t settled on any one yet.  We’re waiting for the right prospect to come along (laughs)

(laughs) ‘We’re waiting for the right person, but rest assured, we will be holding auditions.’

Did you ever expect we would record anything?  Did you even plan to play shows?
 the shirt says all that ever really needs to be said about this band

I thought that we would get a demo done and maybe play five or six shows and it would probably fizzle out.  That was my expectation.  I honestly didn’t really have expectations.  I just thought it would be something fun and that would be it.  A little footnote.

So you came up with the name.  And there has been a lot of internet confusion as well from people who are offended that we’re named after a medical procedure, to people who think we’re some sort of internet page for medical things.

And really, who likes dialysis?  You know?  That’s like saying, ‘I like getting a blood transfusion!  Where can I click on a ‘like’ page for that?’

Also, who likes Dialysis?

(laughs)  There’s at least one person who likes Dialysis, the band.
But as for the name, it was symbolic.  I was going through some bad shit and I wanted to use this fun music to filter out the bad shit.  That’s it.  So it became a personal, spiritual ‘dialysis’, for lack of a better description.

Our name doesn’t really imply what we do.

No, it really doesn’t.  But then, what name would?  It’s gone on this long, so why change it?

How did you meet Matt?

I met him through Ron (Ebony Sorrow bassist).  He was 14 years old and he came to try out for us.  And Ron was telling me, ‘I know he’s really young, but he’s really fast!’  So Matt snuck out of his parent’s house at 9:30 at night, snuck out his basement window and Ron picked him up, and I had just gotten out of work at like 10 or 11 at night and I see this young-ass kid behind the kit.  I looked at him and just said, ‘play me a blast beat’ and the kid fuckin’ ripped.  And other than Mike Dunham from Demonic Prophecy (Syracuse death metal band) he was the fastest drummer I’d ever seen.  We found a way to work around things and he’s been with us ever since.

So that’s been like 16 years now?  You guys have been writing partners forever.

It’s been about 17 or 18 years.  Yeah, it’s nuts.  It’s fucking weird.  Matt’s always down, as long as it’s not conflicting with other things he has to do, like school, or teaching.
 the variant full color cover (of 50), art by Shaky Kane

What’s your favorite thing about that 7”?

Probably being excited about it being the first thing I ever had released on vinyl.  Writing it, knowing that it was going to be on vinyl was exciting.  Getting Shaky Kane to do the artwork was cool.  I wasn’t familiar with his work until you had mentioned that you got him to do it.  It was cool to see how that came out.  The Human Shield cover lives on (“Tough Guys Always Lose”), which was nice.  I remember the writing of the record being a lot of fun. I don’t remember anything about recording it.  We wrote a song in the studio and we sprung it on you last minute, but I can’t remember which one it was.

I think it was “Population Smoker”

OK.  That would make sense.  I remember Matt wrote the riff to it and said, ‘I want to do this’, so we recorded it real quick and it worked, so we kept it.

That makes sense because it’s a very punk rock, three-chord sort of riff and that’s how Matt writes when he ends up writing riffs.  But I also remember nothing about recording it.

It’s the weirdest thing, isn’t it?  It was fun writing it though.

What’s the worst part of the band?

The worst thing about this band is, right now, is it’s tough to keep motivated when you’re on the other side of the country.  That’s really the only bad thing about it.  And there was that really bad weekend we did where like one person came to both shows total.  Those shows in Long Island and New Jersey?

Oh yeah, that was dismal.  Not only were they the most poorly attended shows, but they were in pretty shitty places as well.  There was nothing redeeming about the venues or the towns.

We had to load in through a street fair!
set list as created by an irate audience member somewhere in Rochester maybe?

The only redeeming thing was the guys in Trunk, who we did the shows with, were really fun.  They were wild dudes.

I’d go out with those guys again in a heartbeat.

But everything else stunk.  Literally.  The towns we played in smelled bad too.

I don’t think we even went to any record stores or scored any records on that weekend either!  We didn’t find any good record stores!  And I was thinking, ‘if we’re out on the road and we can’t find any record stores why are we even doing this?’

And now is the part where I hawk wares to you.  Sooo, feel free to grab a copy of "Ludicrous Speed" and with every purchase you will also get a copy of...  "Ludicrous Speed, the fuck up" 7"!  That's right.  If you read the Taxa 7" article (you didn't) you'll remember that when I went to repress that bands two song 7" the pressing plant grabbed the wrong plates and ended up pressing "Ludicrous Speed" onto records containing the labels for a different record.  Not sure how you mix up a 2-song 7" and a 10 song 7", but hey, either way, I got a bunch and I don't want them.  See picture below for details.  So you can get either the 7" for $4 or the digital for the same price (c'mon, 10 songs on a record, that's a deal).

Monday, August 12, 2019


When the sonically-crushing beast known as Engineer began winding down after their third LP, “Crooked Voices”- a decidedly less hammering outing filled with different ideas and some new tricks- it appeared as if the three brothers within the band- Ryan, Brad, and Bob Gorham- were intent on running their business.  Gorham Brothers Music began serving the needs of locals in a way that put the instruments of music in their hands instead of playing it for them.  To be plain, they run a shop that sells music gear.  It’s a great store and even has a performance spot where they would occasionally host shows.  However, little did most people know that after closing hours the guys would continue to mess around with song ideas and slowly began rehearsing with drummer Aaron O’Hara, a friend from near their hometown of Parrish.
Slowly those ideas began to coalesce into something more concrete and they emerged from the shadows with a demo under the name Blood Sun Circle.  It was still ungodly loud, and the amplifier worship was in full effect.  However, instead of barbaric, full throttle drumming simpler, repetitive patterns were introduced, as well as longer passages of meditation, followed by huge swells of the sort of heaviness long time fans could identify with.  Most noticeably different in this group was vocalist Bob Gorham not only picking up a guitar (making them a two-guitar unit), but also using his voice in a far different way than the gut-rupturing scream evident throughout Engineer’s catalog.  The vocals in Blood Sun Circle ranged from a cooed whisper to a wavering, lunatic howl and rarely ventured into the more hardcore bark fans were accustomed to.  It was exceptionally heavy in a significantly different way.

I was well aware of the band’s status as a limited venture.  They weren’t even sure if they would continue under this moniker at first.  But they continued to write songs, played some shows, and honed their craft in this new outing with familiar musical partners and I thought it was quite wonderful.  Blood Sun Circle is pretty much a Syracuse-only group as the members have a business to run, families to attend to, and other adult obligations like skateboarding in their free time to focus intently on the band.  So don’t expect a reply if you ask them to play your basement in Gary, Indiana.  It probably won’t happen.  However, if you are lucky enough to see the group play you would be convinced that they spend every waking moment perfecting the band because everything always comes across with such clarity and intensity.  But I guess that might be sort of expected when three of the four members have been playing music together for most of their lives.
Either way, releasing “Bloodiest/Sunniest” was a labor of love.  I knew Blood Sun Circle would not tour on this LP.  I just wanted it out there.  And after some goading and time they got down to business and recorded the damn thing.  And just like each step in the member’s collective experience within music they aimed to get better at figuring out each aspect of it on their own- from their vast knowledge of gear, to building their own guitar cabinets, to learning how to record their own music, creating the artwork for their releases, and eventually figuring out how to put out their own record.  “Bloodiest/Sunniest” was the first official outing for the band.  Since then they have self-released their second LP, “Distorted Forms” (which is somehow even better) on their own label Drops Of Us.  But for the purposes of this interview we’re going to talk about that first LP and my re-connection to working with the Gorham Brothers on releasing music.  I caught up with Bob Gorham on how it all came together.

So talk a bit about the transition from Engineer into Blood Sun Circle.  There was a lull for a couple years before BSC took off, at least publicly.

Yeah.  So Ryan (Gorham) had that house that was right near our store, literally a stone’s throw, and we had all our shit in his basement.  His basement used to be his wood shop.  So it was big and we had all our gear down there.  So we were just writing, and practicing, all the time.  We were fucking around and writing songs pretty much that whole time.  And that’s when the store pretty much just started.  That was around 2011-2012.  And all that time we were playing in that basement space with our gear down there in storage for the most part.  And we kind of just started messing around with Aaron (O’Hara) on drums because he had just moved to Syracuse.  I don’t know if you know, but Aaron O’Hara, who is our drummer, has been my best friend since I was about seven years old.  We went to school together, and I was the best man at his wedding, and we grew up together.  We’ve known each other since we were little kids.  I used to drive way the fuck out to Altmar to hang out with him in his house.  He ended up moving to Syracuse right when we opened the store and that’s kind of how Blood Sun Circe started spinning.  We would just start jamming and hanging out because he was around.

I knew he was a guy from back where you were from, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of Altmar.  Is that even smaller than Parrish?

Yeah!  It’s on the outskirts.  It’s A-P-W:  Altmar, Parrish, Williamstown.  It’s like three small-ass rural towns all combined into one school system.  He lived out there.
So anyways, we just jammed in that basement the whole time.  That’s when we ended up recording that little EP, and we recorded it at the store.  Brad (Gorham) recorded that at the store right after we opened.  We were just kind of fucking around.  By that point we had thrown out tons of shit that we just wrote for a year or two.  I think it was two years before we recorded that EP, where things were kind of cohesive.  But we wrote a shitload of stuff and threw it all out because it was kind of just finding our sound.  We were kind of just figuring out what to do.  I was messing around with my voice a lot because I wasn’t screaming.  I thought, ‘what do I do if I’m not screaming my ass off the whole time.’  I experimented a lot.
So we recorded that EP and that’s when shit kind of came together.  We found one or two songs out of five where we really liked the vibe.  We wrote a song off of that EP that wasn’t on there, but it was around the time we recorded it, where we felt like, ‘this is Blood Sun Circle.  This is what we’re going to be.  This is the right vibe.’
It actually was a song that ended up on the record.  It took us a really long time to figure out what to do.  It’s the song “The Grips” on the “Bloodiest/Sunniest” record.
As soon as we wrote that song we literally just wrote the rest of the full length.  It came together wicked fast.
And that’s also why I was sort of nervous about doing this interview because I can barely remember anything else about the writing process for the LP because it went fast.

I sort of thought the LP would have taken you all awhile to write.  I don’t think of you all as people who write music quickly.  You all see to take your time a lot, and revise, and consider every part.

We definitely do, but that record happened extremely effortlessly for us.  It was one of the more fluid and cohesive things that  we have done collectively…  like, ya know, the brothers and I.
Once we found the right vibe for that record it just happened.  We did take some time, but we didn’t struggle to write it.  We wrote those songs really quickly and had already booked time to record with Jocko (Moresound Studios).  I took some time to do vocals and find how I wanted to present things I guess.  It took me awhile to practice vocals and hear myself.  That was probably also right around the time I finally had a really nice PA to use.  That was a first for us.  That was extremely instrumental to actually hear myself and still play loud.
In Engineer we always had the worst PAs ever.  It helped me scream harder because we would always have the shittiest, smallest speakers and it was always terrible.

Yeah!  That was a big difference because a lot of people didn’t know at first that it was you doing vocals because they had always been used to you just screaming 100% of the time.  There’s a lot of different range on that record with your voice.  I think, also a lot of people didn’t know you played guitar, which you also play in the band.

That all being said, did you take on more of writing role with Blood Sun Circle than you did in Engineer?  Or has it always been shared equally across the bands?

Well, the way those two bands existed couldn’t be more different.  Engineer was all of us sitting in a room working on a math problem.  That’s the closest thing you could equate it to.
We always practiced wicked late at night because Brad and Auclair drove from Fulton (about 30 miles north of Syracuse) and they had to work late.  So we would practice from like 10 at night until 2 or 3 in the morning.  And we used to practice Engineer about 6 nights a week.  It was ridiculous.  Trying to write records like that?  It was insane.  But it was a lot of working on weird timings…  like working on a math problem.  Every ones’ head was in it so we were working on weird counts, or where to put a pause, or a cymbal catch, or some shit like that.  It was very detail-oriented I guess.  We were grinding out creative, weird rhythms, and trying the mechanics of the song happen.  I was always there, but I never really did vocals at Engineer practice.  I’d just work on the timings with everyone and we would do it together.
In Blood Sun we purposefully got away from that and tried to do something at the  other end of the spectrum.  In Blood Sun we started for fun, and it wasn’t meant to be a serious project at first.  So everybody just did their own thing and we barely discussed anything.  We didn’t really talk to each other about parts, or whose playing what.  It was more about finding a beat that we liked with Aaron and everybody just played what they played, and I don’t even know what Ryan plays, he doesn’t know what I played.  We didn’t argue.  If it sounded cool we kept it, and if it didn’t we just threw it away and that was it.  We kept the whole record like that.

And how did you find your voice in doing that?

I just experimented because I’ve done a lot of singing with other projects, like quiet singing, but it changes a lot when a band is loud and you have to project your voice without screaming.  So I had to find that balance.  I still have to project and be loud, but I don’t want to scream anymore.  I did that for so long that I wanted to try some other shit.  So the challenge for me was that we still played really fucking loud so I would have to take parts of the songs and see what I could do that others were going to hear, that I’m still going to be happy with, that isn’t screaming.  I enjoyed it.  It was like working on a puzzle.  That’s where we would work a lot of dynamics out.  Like, if the music got really quiet I could get weird and be quiet and you’ll hear it.  But when everything is full bore I’m going to have to step it up and do something else, so maybe get creative with using some effects.  Finding the range in my voice at that volume was the real challenge.
A lot of bands kind of treat vocals like an afterthought.  It’s a fucking instrument!  Put the time and effort into them the same way you would playing guitar, or anything else.  Make it creative.

Aaron is a significantly different style of drummer than Mike Auclair.  What’s the experience been writing music around a drummer with a style that’s a lot different than what you had done with Engineer?

It was just another thing to make the band different.  It was something that everybody welcomed because Engineer was a band for a long time.  We wrote a lot of music.  We pushed ourselves to do different shit.  But within that genre there’s a ceiling to all that before you go, ‘OK, that doesn’t sound like Engineer anymore. It’s just a different band.’  And with Aaron being a different drummer it was helpful to get your head out of that box, and those comfort zones.  It’s so easy to play stuff that sounds kind of like Engineer, because we had been doing it for so long, like a riff, or a part.  But with Aaron drumming it was kind of impossible to write those kinds of parts.
He’s so far from Mike that it would never happen, not in a million years.  And his musical tastes are really different and broad.  He listens to a lot if underground, indie, shoegaze types of bands.  He was a wide palette.  He draws from a lot of different places than Auclair does.
But Auclair is like a machine.  You can tell him to play anything and  he can do it on his first try.  It’s ridiculous.  He hits super fucking hard and he plays extremely mechanically.  And Aaron likes to sit in the pocket and make some shit that you want to bang your head to, but like, slower stuff.  He’s good at finding the groove in a rhythm.  He makes it sit really nice in a half-time, or a 6/8 time.
It was helpful to get us out of the box.

So, somewhat unrelated, but between when the band started, and the store opened, you also took kind of a different turn in terms of your career.  You were fighting semi-professionally?  And then doing video and design work before coming into the store.

Yeah.  I worked for the MMA school and I was a part of their team.  So I had been with them for a really long time and I was fighting totally professionally.  And then I did that for basically as long as I could.  And then I ended up working with those schools- they had me doing all their design work because they knew I could do design and video editing.  I slid right into that and did that for awhile.
I was basically just trying to fight, but I got injured twice that set me back financially a considerable amount of money because I didn’t have insurance at the time.  I  broke my hand and my eye socket in the same year.  Both time were while I was training for actual fights.  So that was super inconvenient and set me back about $12,000, or whatever it cost to fix both of those things.  So that sucked.  It’s a tough lifestyle.  It’s a roll of the dice.

It’s not really much of a life time career either.

It’s a very short-lived career for most people.  I’m very glad that it worked out the way that it did.  I knew I was going to transition into helping with the store as soon as it opened.  I just took about a year to make that transition.  I didn’t want to just leave them hanging, so I took about a year and transitioned myself out.  And I went into the store full time with Brad and Ryan after that.

The place that keeps them employed and puts guitars in people's hands- Borham Brothers Music

Sure.  And now Brad is out of the store to do other stuff?

Yeah.  He’s been out for almost two years so he could become a teacher.

He’s got kids to feed.

Yeah, he’s got two kids to feed so he opted out to become a teacher.  It’s what he wanted to do.  He had been very close to getting his degrees when the store opened.  But all of our lifestyles sort of put a cork in that for a long time.

But that’s why Blood Sun Circle has never been a touring sort of band.  Everyone has obligations.

We have done some weekends out of state a few times, but it’s really hard because this is actually the first year that we have ever had an employee.  So, up until then it was just us.  For the first 6 years it was just us.  We’re in our 8th year now.  For the first 6 years we worked 7 days a week.  We were open every day.
So if we played a show out of state we would have to drive back so we could open the store at 10AM.  And we did it a bunch of times and it was awful.  It was so, so awful.
I remember one time we did Connecticut and then Rochester in a weekend.  We did the show in Connecticut, drove back overnight, opened the store at 10AM, with no sleep, and then closed the shop and drove up to Rochester for a second show.  It was the worst.  It was a terrible idea.
But for Blood Sun Circle that is kind of what we decided to do.  We didn’t really want to travel that much.  We would pop up to Rochester once in awhile, or anywhere close enough where it wouldn’t be painful to have to drive back.  But if was like a 5 to 7 hour drive, we would like ‘nah.’  It’s just too hard with running a business on top of it.  It just didn’t make sense.

At this point, though, even if there weren’t kids, or a business to run, would you want to be in a band that toured a lot anymore?

I guess my personal perspective is that I would.  I don’t have any kids and I’ve set myself up purposefully in this situation that I have going on.  I do music every single day.  I leave here and play music.  If I wasn’t talking to you on the phone I would be home working on a mix, or working on music for something.  It’s literally all I do.  I do artwork still a little bit too.
But, yeah, why the fuck not?  I’m in this spot where I feel very fortunate to have the freedom that I have, even though the store is a business and takes up a lot of my time.  I would still tour and play shows.  It doesn’t really bother me if the shows are shitty.  I’m jaded and old and don’t give a fuck, but I love playing music.  I would probably tour, but I’d do it a bit more comfortably now, I think.  Because I’m an adult.  I’d sleep in a hotel and buy myself dinner, and have a great time, ya know?
The last bunch of time Blood Sun played out of town it was awesome.  The experience was amazing because we would just go out to dinner and party and play a show.  It was like going on a one, or two-day vacation.  We treated it like a vacation from our normal lives, so it was super fun.  It wasn’t grinding it out.
I don’t know if I’d want to do that, and sleep on floors, and play for a month straight.  I wouldn’t do that.  My taste in music has never been something that generates money, and I don’t think it ever will. 

The artwork for the LP is based on a painting you did, but then there was also the alternate cover, which was screenprinted and created as a limited add-on to the rest of the record.  Did you have trouble choosing one over the other, or was it just a fun project to do?

It was definitely, ‘let’s do something else too.’  If we were going to press a record the thought was ‘let’s do something cool artistically.’  Records are really the coolest way to do something large format, and there’s tons of variation and options.
I wanted to do something even crazier than we did.  I researched tons of weird options for that record.  I just couldn’t pull any of them off.  So we stuck with the limited screen print, which was fun.  But I was trying to take that design and do some embossed foil shit that I had never dabbled with before, but it wasn’t possible.
 The fancy alternate (and personally illustrated) alternate record covers

What’s been the best part of doing Blood Sun Circle, and what has been the worst?  Bestiest/worstiest?

That’s a good question.  The best part is probably during the era of “Bloodiest/Sunniest” was the way the timeline lined up with everyone’s lives, and where we were at when the record came together.  That was a great time.  That was all good shit.  The writing experience was really good.  Everything was very concise and everybody’s brain was in the same spot.
Equally can be said for the worst part, which was the record we did after that.  It was more challenging.  Writing “Distorted Forms” was tough because stuff started to happen.  Brad had more kids, Ryan had more kids, running the store was super fucking busy.  All of the things that culminated after putting out “Bloodiest/Sunniest” started to get really hard, like getting together and be creative, and have that ‘not give a shit’ attitude.  “Distorted Forms” came out over two years after “Bloodiest/Sunniest” and we were trying to write that whole time.  We threw out a lot of stuff.  There’s got to be 30 songs on Ryan’s computer at the store that are just unused.  It took our whole writing process and just stretched it out because everyone was so busy into an insanely long time frame.  And it makes it tough to stay on task, and stay on focus, and put it on the same record.  It makes writing take so much longer that it becomes a chore and that sucks because it’s the wrong vibe for that band.

It must be tough working with an ex-member of the band.

Oh, you mean my brother?

Yeah, I’m just fucking with you.

Oh yeah.  We stopped doing the band, but we have an entire third record that we’re working on.  We recorded it, we’re just getting it mixed.  So it’s done.  It’s not out.
But when the writing process takes forever it sucks and it kind of ruins the vibe.  And that band is all about the vibe, and harnessing the right vibe for a record is where that band existed and lived in that pocket of everyone being on the same page, and milking whatever vibe we found for the record.  But the long writing process made it almost impossible to re-create.
 And with that all being said I think I have a total of about 3 copies of this LP left and then it's gone forever.  So do me a favor and buy one of them (no limited covers left though) and you can have it for $5 total.  That's it.  Or you can get the digital for only $4 this week only.  Slide on over to the bandcamp page and get your mitts on this crusher of a record.