Fresh from the launch of their physical album All Creatures Strange and their single Rise Of The Royal Reptile at The Facemelter in April, Josh from Sonic Mass answered a few questions for James Black.
From the first chord on the album, I hear a very traditional influence here. Being one of the Chaos Theory folk music crew, rock and metal is not my background, but there sounds like a lot of classic rock and metal influences here and you’re not scared to make it known. From the tempos, to the thematic essences of the song. Do you see yourselves as picking up something from past masters in this way?
I don’t understand why anyone would intentionally go out of their way to do that. It seems to me that the underground rock scene is teeming with bands that are quite content with beating someone else’s dead horse. Not that we are the most original cutting edge thing around, but we never intended to be and nor did we intend to as you say “pick up” from where someone left off. Its just how it comes out when we play together. I get the impression that certain bands are almost proud to be imitating someone else’s vision.
There’s also a lot of conceptual creativity in the sound, that sounds to me like the influences are visual as well as sonic. How much has graphic art and visual narrative played into your sound?
Film is sonic, man. We are all big fans of visual art. But we don’t try to write a song about a film, but more what feeling the film or visual art gives us, what ideas bubble up in relation to it and then interpret that as a harmony or step. It’s counter creative to simply “play along to the film”. See how far you can push the ideas that come from the feeling given to you by whatever visual form you choose to muse from.
You’ve done something with the vocals which is awesome, some thoughtful production has gone on here, or microphone choice. Whatever it is the vocals sound fantastic, an almost vinyl sound. Is this deliberate?
Thank you. We have had mixed feedback in that department, which tells us we are doing the right thing. I had an idea for how I wanted the vocals to come across on the record but in the end they ended up a product of their environment. In hindsight the entire process of recording the album was quite ragtag. We didn’t have the best place, technology or even knowledge to record. But I think as long as you have the sound in your head, no matter your limitations, if the will is invoked you will find a way to achieve your vision, as unorthodox the process may be. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we intended for it to sound vinyl as you say, but yeah, the end result was our intention. We are very pleased with the outcome.
Technically this is amazing stuff and you guys create a real atmosphere on the album, but one thing I like is, it is not overdone. The pyrotechnics don’t get in the way of the balls to the wall sound. Is this something that evolved, or did you always set out for it?
Just like the vocals, we had a view of our desired goal. The album was recorded live so we could maintain the rawness of a band in their practice space, with improvisations, mistakes, happy accidents and even a bit of that layer of mud that comes along with the sound of a band cranked up in a small room. But also, with our intentions for it being a “studio album” and not just a live album it felt right to bring in some of those magical imaginary moments that occur when enjoying a live band whilst “chemically altered”.
Do you think there is a danger of some post-rock and metal bands losing the theatre of this kind of music forsaking it for technical wizardry? It seems to me that you have gone out of your way not lose your priorities on that score.
Some people have an ego when it comes to the music they create. But what’s even worse is when people bring ego into the kind of music they listen to. And that’s just upsetting, not personally but that someone can allow such trivialities interfere with the wonder of listening to a wide variety of music. Some bands out there will try to replicate their live sound on record and nothing more. Where as some bands aim to sound as close to their record as possible when performing live. Though I admire those of both systems, I always enjoy when a band is aware that they can’t do all the wizardry from the record so they reinterpret that in to a live setting. Again, its another avenue of creativity that should be explored by all who happen to wander by.
We all read the things we connect with into the music we listen to it, and I may be just projecting, but tracks like Iron Bong seem to have a bit of Hendrix in them. You’re not scared to rip out the ripping guitar solos in a very classic rock and roll way. Would that be accurate?
I regularly get compared to Hendrix in some way or another. Though I am ill-educated on the larger part of his music bar the obvious, I have never actually got round to listening to a Hendrix record. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of his talent and his place in the evolution of rock music. I guess he invented the wheel in that aspect. You play a ripping blues scale with wailing fuzz and erratic wah you are gonna get something pretty close to Jimi. I just find it fun to play like that.
Filmed, recorded, edited and mixed by Peter Junge
All Creatures Strange is very different, more percussive and atmospheric than all out facemelting. Did that start in improv, or did it emerge as a fully formed idea?
It came about very late in the production of the album. There was an original All Creatures Strange, but when I saw the finished artwork for the sleeve I felt there was something more going on rather than what was up with my friend’s leg. There was a separation of dimensions. Someone got lost in the darkness that exists side by side with the light. She doesn’t want to leave the darkness, she just wants the light to come back. She has spent too much time longing that now she is losing herself, becoming a part of the darkness. I never knew her name.
What’s the single you are releasing? Can you tell us why that is your choice?
Rise Of The Royal Reptile. Its one of our favourite songs and it has a silly name. Its not that we personally believe in reptilian shapeshifters, I can’t disclose that information, but there are those who do believe. But when ever the Sax-Coburn Gothe family comes up in conversation someone will mention reptiles and then what ever one says about the darker side of the royal family gets passed off as “lizard lunacy”. No matter how bang on the mark David Icke is about the state of our perceptions and those who wish to control and suppress our potential, it all just gets passed off as paranoid absurdity by the majority. Which is a darn shame if you ask me.
Where does this album launch come in terms of where you are as a band? Are you touring right now, or it is all about the studio?
We are heading to Europe in the summer to play the Red Smoke Festival in Pleszew, Poland. Potentially heading to Ireland for another festival but other than that we are taking things as they come. With being an entirely self contained unit from the writing of a song to its mastering on to disc it gives a lot of comfort and freedom to record at the drop of a lighter. Having your own personal space where you can rehearse and record at your own leisure is something every band or musician should have access to.