Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This month saw Music Fest Northwest, the best weekend for live music in Portland. Even though I've been recovering from knee surgery, I managed to get to see a few things. Sleep performed an incredible 2 hour show that at its best moments was basically exactly what you imagine a metal show should be. It was a like a Platonic, picture perfect show at its peak. I reviewed it for the Oregonian, and also blogged about NoMeansNo and Scott Kelly.
This year, there was more heavy music at the indie-heavy fest than ever before. I got to write a nice long piece about it, which focuses on Red Fang, Baroness, From Ashes Rise and Sleep. Here's an ad from MFNW 2009 highlighting how there was almost no metal. How times change! While writing this piece, I interviewed Brad Boatright, frontman of From Ashes Rise. It was a great conversation, but I only got to use a couple of quotes from it. Here is most of the interview.
What are you listening to right now? You're playing MFNW. Do you listen to any indie rock?
This morning I listened to Pentagram and Slayer on the way to work. This evening it was a little rainy and I was a little tired so I put on Neil Young. To be honest, indie rock and what you hear on the radio these days is better than it has been in a long time. I don't know if it's me getting older or if people had to figure out how to do it right, but there's a lot of stuff on Saturday Night Live, or whatever that's really mainstream that I would listen to, that's really good. It's mellower stuff, of course...when it comes to what I'm really into it tends to be more obscure, but at the same time we're really eclectic with our musical tastes, so we're not going to ignore something because it's indie rock.
From Ashes Rise just reformed this year. Why now?
As time goes by, people get older and you start looking back on things that may have happened a few years ago and think to yourself, "Why did we ever stop playing?" Was it a burnout thing? Were we just tired of it? Did we reach critical mass of creativity? I'm sure it was a combination of all of those things, but as time goes by, the severity of all those lessened. Our drummer, Dave, was in a band that was touring quite a bit and he had parted ways with them so it was perfect timing.
It sounds like it was internal factors. Did it have anything to do with timing in the music scene for your sound?
No. Frankly, we've always been in the dark as far as what kind of reception we've got outside of the people we're playing in front of right at the moment. Honestly, it was just four and a half years of not playing music in From Ashes Rise. We all played music in other bands, but it was something that we all miss. We started when we were really young, and we started missing it. Not to lessen those other bands--we've all been involved in and still are involved in some really great projects. But From Ashes Rise has always been a little more freeform.
I've heard you're planning to record new material. Do you know when we might hear that?
We've just been rehearsing a set, flying out and doing a show, and the cycle repeats. Hopefully, over the winter we'll have some downtime. We have some ideas right now. It doesn't take us that long to write songs, but these days it's kind of hard to get everyone together. But it will happen. I wouldn't expect it by year's end or anything, but it will happen. We're ready to keep moving forward, to take the formula we have and make it better.
What direction do think the new material will take? More polished with one kick drum like Nightmares or something different?
I'm really not sure. One reason that Nightmares sounds so refined is we had 11 days in the studio and we got a really good sound out of it. With the records before that, we lived in Tennessee. Nashville, you know, music city, USA, believe it or not, had a pretty poor selection of studios that could accommodate a heavy, underground band at the time. So we would go on tour and book four or five days at a studio in Oakland called Polymorph, so everything was rushed. We had to have the songs done before tour, so the songwriting was rushed too. Whatever we do next is still going to be downtuned; it's still going to be pissed off. I don't know how to sing, so...
How has the response been at your live shows this year?
It's been great. The best is seeing 17 or 18 year old kids. We broke up 5 years ago, which when you're over 30, isn't that long. But for a teenager, it's a really long time. When we played Satyricon in February, it was the best Portland show we had ever had. There was a lot of young energy in that crowd. I feel like it's gotten even stronger in the years since we've been dormant.
You've been flying out for a lot of one-off shows. Is that something you used to do before as well?
We did...We just don't have time to tour these days. The best thing with creativity and being in a band in general is learning how to use necessity to your advantage. For instance, you mentioned the kick drum thing, we quit using a double kick because Dave broke his bass pedal! In this case, the necessity is we don't have time to tour, so it's better for us and better for the promoters to pick a date and fly us in. We played LA at the Power of the Riff Fest. It takes an hour and a half to fly down and we probably would have spent the same amount on gas getting $4 a gallon in a shitty Econoline. I don't want to sound like snob or come off as an asshole saying that I'd rather fly to Chicago than play small town America. I mean, we're all from really small towns in the South except for Derek who's from small town Wisconsin. It's just a necessity thing. We can't go on tour for two months, so we do what we can.
I've been on your Facebook page and it looks like you have a lot of fun on these trips. Are you generally fun people?
Yeah, absolutely. You gotta be, otherwise you'll go crazy.
Image of From Ashes Rise by Alex Aimaq.