Monday, May 25, 2015

INTERVIEW - Still Hard: Raven's John Gallagher on Living the Metal Life



Left to right: Mark Gallagher, Joe Hasselvader and John Gallagher of Raven. (Courtesy of Freeman Promotions)

Never judge a book by its cover.

I see John Gallagher's name come up on my phone, and I pick up the line fully expecting a chat with the crazed Metal Maniac of Raven. (Cue devil horns and a blazing guitar riff!) What I got instead was a humble, soft-spoken and incredibly friendly man who was more like the kind of person you'd have coffee with at a quiet cafe than a guy you'd hit up to trash a hotel. It was definitely a surprise considering that John's musical career has been and continues to be the embodiment of Heavy Metal.

For more than four decades, John and his brother Mark have stayed true to their over-the-top brand of “Athletic Rock” through incredible highs (including 1983's classic All For One and 1984's Live At The Inferno) and near career-ending lows (including an ill-fated mid-'80s run on Atlantic Records and a freak 2001 accident that saw Mark's legs crushed when a wall collapsed on him). Along with long-serving drummer Joe Hasselvander (Pentagram/Blue Cheer), the brothers continue to deliver true Heavy Metal that is immune to trends or popular opinion. Love 'em or 'em, Raven do what they do without apology.

The band's bulletproof new album, ExtermiNation (Steamhammer/SPV), is the latest in a series of high-profile events to impact the band in recent times. In addition to the release of the career-spanning Rock Until You Drop DVD in 2013, the band joined Metallica – who toured with them way back in 1983 – last year for a show in front of a crowd of 70,000 in São Paulo. 

Currently living in Virginia, John was very happy to discuss Raven's current place in the world of Metal, his thoughts on some of his peers in the scene and what it was like to cut his teeth in the British club scene of the mid-to-late '70s.


You're 41 years into this. How does it feel to be spending your day doing interviews about an album in 2015 with Raven four decades after you started?

It's pretty amazing. These are the things you can't even dream of when you're trying to project into the future what could be going on. The fact that we're still around and doing it is pretty amazing as it is, and everything else is gravy - the fact that we're still pushing the envelope, still raising the bar and still kicking ass live and making it happen.

It's been five or six years since you've done an album, right?

Right. We technically released Walk Through Fire in Japan in 2009, and then it came out in the States and in Europe in 2010.

What accounted for that kind of timespan between releases?

Obviously, it took a lot longer due to Mark's accident in 2001. It took something like nine years to put Walk Through Fire out. We had a lot of catch-up to do out there...The album had a great reception and did very well for us, and we wanted to get out there and basically milk it. We had the ability and the offers coming in, so we went out and toured with it. When that was winding down, then we did the DVD, Rock Until You Drop, which is the retrospective on the band. That came out in 2013, and we ended up touring on that. Then, we figured it's about time to get our asses in gear here and work on a new album.

In this day and age, you're not putting an album out every year. You want to try to make it an event; you want to try and it make special. It takes a little longer. The actual recording process for us is always very short, but the work before that – the pre-production, the writing, the re-arranging, picking the right songs, all that kind of stuff – is time-consuming and basically takes as long as it takes until you're happy with what you've got. You finalize the arrangements and try to make it powerful. No extraneous parts and notes; you just want to boil it down to the essence of what you want to do, then get in the studio and do it live. We go in, we play it as a band - no click tracks, no tricks, no nonsense – and capture that raw energy.

You can definitely feel that on this album.

Yeah. It's sad; the more I talk to people, the more I learn that nobody records this way. Everyone is just file-sharing, or you see videos of these bands recording their albums on YouTube, and you're hearing [makes sound of a click track] and the guitar player's playing away to it. No! We don't need a click track – we've got a drummer! We have a Joe Hasselvander! He provides the beats. He's the percussionist. We don't have a click track, because that's how you get a real feel; that's how you get that edge...that little bit of danger in there. Tempos push and pull, and it's organic. There isn't a button for that in ProTools, you know? (laughs)






Speaking of the drums, the “new guy” in Raven has been with you –

28 years!

Exactly. And that's a rarity in this business. With a lot of Metal acts I see, especially those playing festivals in Europe, it's the bass player and the triangle player from the original band, and everybody else is new. What is it about Raven in particular that has enabled the three of you to stay together and work together as well as you have for so long?

It's chemistry. It's like a marriage; it's mostly about personality and being friends and going through thick and thin. That translates into the music. We're not a corporation; we're not a football team. So many of these bands are like franchises; they're almost completely faceless. It's like, 'Okay, who's playing lead guitar this week? Who's the drummer next week? Who's the bass player the week after that?' The team will change, but the name on the fascia will remain the same. Well, we're not like that; we're old school friends, and we stick to it.

I know you're based in the States and have been here for a long time. The US market for Metal has had its ups and downs over the years. What are your goals in terms of America?

I think we fill a niche there that's not being catered to. There's Death Metal and the Hard Thrash and all this symphonic European nonsense. Where's the heavy Rock? That's where we are. Obviously, we got our roots firmly from where we started, back in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but we're not stuck there. We've got one foot in our roots and one foot moving forward. We continually push the envelope and bring out new ideas, as we have on this record. There aren't many of our contemporaries who are doing that, if indeed they're still around.

The more I hear Thrash albums, and the more I hear the Death Metal albums, they all sound the same. They're all using the same producer. It all starts getting very samey...You form the bands to play the same kind of music, and they're all playing with the same gear, so it's all going to sound the same. God bless 'em; let them get on with it, and we'll continue to try to be as original as possible.





This year is kind of an anniversary for Raven. Exactly 30 years ago was the first time a lot of Americans got to hear the band to begin with through the single “On And On” and the first Atlantic record, Stay Hard. When you look back now, what are your thoughts on that era's place in the history of the band and the effect it's had on you even today?

It didn't do us any favors. Stay Hard was a great album for us; it was the logical next step after All For One. We had no problem; the album was done before we finalized the deal with Atlantic. They had input on the next one [1986's The Pack Is Back], and obviously made our lives miserable one way or another. We had to climb back from that, and we got a lot of flack for that [period], but a lot of other bands made much more grievous errors. Judas Priest did at least two horrible albums, and Saxon probably did two or three. It happened to a lot of bands where the record companies were meddling and pushing...They wanted KISS meets Bon Jovi or something, you know? You're young, impressionable and naive, and it takes you a while to wake up sometimes. And we did, and we moved on from that. It's water under the bridge. You live and learn. We learned that when we did The Pack Is Back, it's not the best way to do a record – using click tracks and going in and doing it one [track] at a time and spending eight to 10 weeks doing a record. It drove us crazy.

When we record, we spend all the time with pre-production and writing and getting it the way we want it, and then we bang it all out in like five or six days live in the studio. No click track, no nothing – just boom. You fix whatever you need to fix, but you've got to capture that energy. That's what it's all about – capturing the feel.







How would you define the relationship you have with labels today? SPV put out this new album.

SPV are savvy; they know what's going on and are in touch with the scene, as it were. They've been partners with us off and on for many years, basically for 15 years straight or something like that. They're great guys; we're in contact with them constantly. They're really happy with this one because they kind of got the last album secondhand because it had been out for about six months in Japan. They really wanted to build a concerted effort around the release on this, where it's a worldwide release. They're doing a bang-up job; they got me working my ass off for the last few days here! (laughs) So that's a good thing.

Going back to the start of the band for a moment, you did some shows in the early days with a band I’ve done some writing about, The Stranglers -

Yeah! We opened for a couple of Punk bands. We opened for The Stranglers in '76 or '77, and we also opened for more of a New Wave band called The Motors. Both of those shows were notable in that the main bands would not let us use the PA system, which is like so weird. It would be ballsy to say, 'Hey, can I use your backline?' But to say, 'No, you can't use the PA...You have to bring your own PA in'? We did on both occasions, and did really well. The great thing about the Stranglers show is the original guitar player, Hugh Cornwell, came up to a bunch of us before they were going to play and said, 'Does anyone got perfect pitch?' I said, 'Yeah!' He said, 'Give me an E,' so I went [does the sound of an E]. He tuned his guitar and walked on stage and started to play! (laughs) And if that's not Punk Rock, I don't know what is.

You were playing at a time before the New Wave of British Heavy Metal really took hold in England. What was it like being a band at that time playing music that really, to a lot of ears, was a new thing that was not widely known or accepted at that point in time?

The people that we were playing to got it, because we were taking the Rock of the day – the Deep Purple, the Sabbath, the Zeppelin, the Montrose, the Budgie – and taking the more hyper aspects of that. Back in those days, it was half originals and half covers...We had been playing 'Breaking All The House Rules' by Budgie or 'Highway Star' by Deep Purple, and we did a couple of Judas Priest ones – 'Hell Bent For Leather' or 'Victim of Changes'  – and a couple of AC/DC songs. They were all the uptempo stuff; as we started feeding more and more of our own songs [into the set], the audience went along with it to the point where we were playing some of clubs in 1980 and it was totally original [material]. I think the last one we played, we had the honor of being paid off...You used to do two sets, and if the committee of the club hated you, they would give you half the money and say, 'Go home!' That was the ultimate badge of honor, because we had started a riot at the [club] when we didn't get to play the second set! (laughs) You heard people screaming for their money back and threatening to kill the committee. It was great.

It was strange; back in those days, you really did your apprenticeship and learned how to engage an audience, how to play to them, how to entertain them or how to antagonize them. There was a lot of rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland, which is only 10 miles away. So if you were playing south of Newcastle, inevitably [the emcee] would be saying [in a deep DJ voice], 'And next up, it's the boys from...Newcastle!' and the crowd would go, 'Boooo!' They used to bring the beer mats – the coasters – and have their song requests on them and they'd put them on the stage. Inevitably, down there they would have 'fuck off!' written on them! (laughs) So it was tough; you played to punks and skinheads and learned to fight you way through it. If they weren't with you, you'd make sure they were damn well against you and just antagonize the Hell out of them. That's served us in good stead over all these years.




Obviously, Heavy Metal as a genre has taken a few hits over the years in terms of public opinion, but it always seems to come back. It's a style of music that has always proven to be incredibly resilient. The press doesn't get it and record companies don't always get it, but the fans always seem to understand. What do you think it is about Heavy Metal that has allowed it continue to grow to the point where it's still very much a worldwide phenomenon in 2015?

It's part of the spectrum of music; it really is. It's bright red; it's right there. Your laid-back Jazz is a kind of purple, and the Blues is the blue, but Heavy Metal is full-out red. Because of that, it will never go away. It's like a beacon for people who have been through some hard times or whatever. It's a release – the glorious power of just hitting a big power chord. That's what it's all about – the energy that's in that. To my mind, it's obviously more than that. There's melody, there's songs. It's energy viewed through that prism as opposed to the nonsense which a lot of bands call Heavy Metal these days. I've seen that so many times when we were on tour in the states last year: [Mimicking redneck voice], 'Oh, you guys are in a band? What kind of music you play?' We go, 'Heavy Metal,' and we see the face go urrrr...We say, 'Our roots are in Deep Purple and..' They go, 'Oh! That's great! I love that!' You know what I mean? They think they're talking to some guy with a white face playing a chainsaw guitar and making a complete racket. I think the term's been corrupted by all that down-tuned, Cookie Monster stuff that's not Heavy Metal. It really isn't, so we need to claim the term back. (laugh)

Who are some bands you're seeing today that really do earn the name 'Heavy Metal' and are doing things the right way or maybe even pushing it forward as a genre?

There are obviously still the bigger bands like Metallica and Megadeth...As far as the younger bands, we had a band out with us called Night Demon. They're great and have a lot of roots in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. There's a Canadian band called Cauldron, and my friend Ryan from Municipal Waste has a couple of projects – Volture and BAT – which are both heavily influenced by the New Wave of British Of Heavy Metal. Bands over in Europe...we have Air Raid, a Swedish band. There are also Rock bands which merge into the heavy territory, like the Winery Dogs...It's real guys playing real music. The California Breed thing that Glenn Hughes did was awesome, and there's a band we love from California called Rival Sons that are really cool. There's good stuff out there.

You mentioned Metallica. I know you guys kind of had a full-circle moment with them last year when you played with them in front of a pretty big audience – I think about 70,000 people in São Paulo.

Yeah, it was insane. We did the DVD, and a friend of a friend asked Lars if he wanted to contribute. He very nicely did like an hour's worth of interview, which we used quite a lot of. When we played California in 2013, he came down to the show and we saw him for like five, 10 minutes...In 2014, we were setting up some dates in Brazil, and my guy down there said, 'Hey, Metallica's playing a soccer stadium down here. Are you guys still in touch with them?' I said, 'Well, I can get a message to them.' He said, 'Well, why don't we ask if we can open up?' (laughs) Hey, if you don't ask, you don't get. I put the message through, and it came back, 'Yeah, let's do it.' So we went, and it was mind-blowing the amount of people and the size of the hall. It was crazy.

Metallica were delayed...What happened was, we were able to play an extra song, which turned out to be 'Break The Chain' for about 12 minutes! (laughs). It was funny as hell, as James [Hetfield]  was on stage videoing us, headbanging and giving us the high five. It was really cool. We hung out with them for about 10, 15 minutes before they went on stage. We had a bit of a reconnect there, which was awesome.


Tour rider for the Raven/Metallica "Kill 'Em All For One" Tour, 1983 (Source: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/1983-metallica-concert-rider-795412)

What are your plans as far as touring in support of this record, especially stateside?

We're starting to get that together. We're going to Japan in early July. When we come back from that, we're doing a couple of weeks of dates in the States at the tail end of July. We have a full European tour we're building for September through October, then we'll be looking to do more US dates after that.

As we mentioned at the start of this conversation, it's 41 years into your career. You have this great new album in your hands. What are your ultimate hopes moving forward for this band?

Basically just to continue pushing the envelope. We’ve still got a lot of great music in our heads. We're playing live better and crazier than ever, and there are still lots of places to play. I did interviews with guys from India today. There's a whole untapped market for us in places like that. We've never been to Australia, and we've never been to New Zealand, Malaysia or Indonesia, and there are a lot of countries in Europe we haven't hit, even after all these years. We'll be hitting a bunch of them later this year. Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, stuff like that. It's definitely all good.




*Some portions of the above interview were edited for clarity. 

Raven's Official Website


READ JOEL'S BIO
PURCHASE JOEL'S BOOKS
EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

INTERVIEW - Dark Days Gone: The Unexpectedly Bright Future of Coal Chamber



Photo by Dan Santoni

Imagine crossing paths with a former lover from your distant past. Would the meeting go well, or would it be an emotional train wreck? Would it be possible to rekindle the magic, or would the mere thought of being friends again be enough to turn you off? Reconnecting with someone who represents so much history and baggage is always a tricky thing, which makes the unexpected (and so far incredibly fruitful) reunion of Nu Metal veterans Coal Chamber so intriguing.

Today marks the release of Rivals, Coal Chamber's first album in 13 years. Easily of the year's most vicious Metal releases, Rivals finds the band (now comprised of original singer/current DevilDriver frontman Dez Fafara, original guitarist Miguel "Meegs" Rascón, longtime drummer Mikey “Bug” Cox and later-period bassist Nadja Peulen) pummeling through perhaps their strongest effort to date. The album's many highlights include the menacing "I.O.U. Nothing" and "Suffer In Silence" (the latter featuring a guest vocal appearance by Al Jourgensen of Ministry.)

Considering Dez Fafara's heavily-tattooed image and imposing stage presence, it might come as a surprise to many that he is one of the most unassuming, well-spoken and insightful people in the business - a fact made crystal clear in the following interview. 


The obvious first question is, why now with Coal Chamber? Obviously, you've been very successful doing DevilDriver all these years. Why was it time to bring Coal Chamber back and do this new album?

We started talking in 2006, when Meegs came up and did “Loco” with DevilDriver in California. Then in 2009, he gave me a couple of songs that I demoed on. We listened to them, and they definitely sounded like old Coal Chamber. At that point, I don't think any one of us were at the point where we wanted to do that throwback music. Plus I [thought] the conversations and dialogue needed to be opened more. At that point, the mending started to heal in order for us to get together and go do a tour.

We started to tour in late 2011 into 2012. We went over to the Soundwave Festival in Australia. When you step out on tour in front of 50,000-60,000 people and they're singing all the words in a place you haven't even been...it was magnificent. It was like saying, 'Okay, we either struck a nerve back in the day or people have long memories.' I think it's a bit of both. As far as why now? I don't know; it could have happened in 2009. But in 2012 when we were at Soundwave, we were on these buses that bring all the bands back to the hotels from the Festival. Meegs was listening to some music in some headphones; I grabbed the headphones and said, 'What is this?' He said, 'It's just some music I'm writing.” I said, 'For who? For what?' He said, 'Just some stuff I'm writing, Dez.' I was like, 'Let me tell you, if your writing, the arrangement and the sound is this mature, this is probably the time for us to get together and see of we can do a new record.'

That being said, too, I would be remiss to not bring up the fact – and it should be resounding clear to everyone reading this – that if you ever have a chance to make up with an ex love or ex best friend who you had forever but had a falling out with over something stupid or a job that rightfully fired you and you want to go back to that guy and say, 'Thanks for firing me. I finally got my shit together because of it,' then you should do that in life. I don't want to live with regrets.

I think the timing was perfect was well. In 20 years of doing both Coal Chamber and DevilDriver, I had never taken time off. With DevilDriver, we did six records in 12 years. Most bands take a year off between cycles, but we never did that. We keep spitting out good music and just toured, clocking more road miles than literally any band on the planet. Finally, after Winter Kills came out – it debuted higher than any of the others and was extremely praised by critics and fans alike – [I thought], 'Okay, this is the time when we take off and regroup.' Mike Spreitzer, my guitar player, said, 'Yeah, I'm going to build my home studio and surf.' I said, 'I'm going to finish my studio here.' During that time, knowing that I had time off, Coal Chamber approached me and said, 'Do you want to do a record?' I said, 'I don't want to go anywhere to do a record.' They go, 'You have a home studio. You can sing during the day.' My main goal was to have dinner with my family every night...In over 20 years, I can't tell you how many times I actually have done that. I said, 'I can definitely record during the day and hang out with my family at night.' Then they came to me when the record was done [and said], 'You've still got a year and a half off. How would you like to do five or six weeks in the states with us?' I said, 'No problem; let's go do that.' Then after that, it was, 'Hey, do you want to take eight days and go do Monsters of Rock in Brazil with Ozzy, Judas Priest and Motorhead, and do Chile and Mexico City?' I asked my wife, 'How do you feel about me splitting just for like a week?' She said, 'No problem, honey. Go ahead,' because I had been home, you know what I mean? It all worked out very coincidentally, and give Coal Chamber adequate time touring for the new record and adequate time to make the record.





Now that you have this rare benefit of being back in the band roughly 20 years after the first album and 13 years since the split, and you're working together in the present tense, how would you say the band has evolved in that time – not only in terms of your personal relationships, but how you guys communicate and work together in writing songs?

Personally, it's just on a totally different level. Meegs is married, very mature and has his shit together. Mike's got a baby boy who is a year old and is the light of his life, and Mike is sober. This band would definitely not be together if he was not sober, so we all get behind him on that. The relationships have gotten to the point where communication is the top priority. The first night we were together in the rehearsal room jamming, my wife asked, 'What did you guys get done?' I said, 'Nothing but laugh.' Literally laugh at all the bullshit and everything from the past. We'd make little comments to each other – the kind of stuff we used to say to each other – and just start laughing. That kind of a thing made me really feel like there was something special going on, like, 'It's okay, man. I definitely want to do music with these cats.' So everything has changed. Musically, it is completely different. It's on a much more mature scale, both in writing and arrangement. I think the way we go about writing has always been the same – very old school, lock ourselves away in a room, write, share back and forth until we get it right, get a producer, make sure our arrangements sound correct and have him go through it with a fine-toothed comb – which we did with this record.

[The response] has been overwhelmingly positive. One thing that is apparent is that we didn't want to be part of some nostalgia trip and some '90s throwback sound. We definitely wanted to do something different and new, and I think we have.

Looking back at the band's history, you have had some changes in the past when it comes to the bass player slot. How do you think having Nadja back at this point in time most benefits what you're hoping to do moving forward?

When we first started touring [again], she wasn't ready; she had some other stuff going on. Everybody had to be totally together in their minds and ready to do it. She wasn't at that point. [When we] got back together for another round and talked about making a record, it was very much on the top of our heads: 'Hey, let's talk to Nadja and see where she's at now.' She was just in a really great place personally and with us. She's a monster on stage, and she’s an absolute monster in the studio. She came in and in four days just killed her parts. I don't know a lot of bass players on a record that's going to be of this caliber who can just go in and wail on it like that. She brings her own style to things, and she's a bit of a mediator between is as well. That has always been a fantastic part of her place in the band. And not so much now because there's never any conflict because the communicate is open, but now more so than when she hears us say something to each other that makes us laugh, she starts laughing and brings another perspective, like, 'Oh God, I remember' this or that and then we all start fucking laughing at her view of what she was seeing before the split. So it's critical.

How did Uncle Al get involved in the proceedings?

Great friend, longtime friend and a progenitor of a scene. The guy started Industrial music; you wouldn't have all those bands out there now without him. He's somebody I've always looked up to. Over the years, I've been very fortunate to work with a lot of great artists, and he was one of those dudes on my list. I was like, 'I really want to work with Al.' I think he understood the lyrics to 'Suffer In Silence.' Are you keeping something in for so long that you'll explode? Eventually, you have to let it out; otherwise, you end up suffering in silence. He was like, 'Okay, I'm into this.' He understands heavy music, but he also understands the Goth aspect of what we are. We could just as easily listen to The Damned and Bauhaus as we can Black Flag or Black Sabbath – or Soul music or anything with any kind of groove. There are so many diverse things within this band, but I think putting all those thongs together led me to the conclusion of, 'Lets work with Al, man.' I called him, he wanted to do it and he came down here. We had a big Italian dinner, and we drank a bunch of wine. He went inside my studio, and I think one of the key things is you've got to imagine listening to Al getting his vocal sound. All of a sudden, there's that Al Jourgensen/Ministry sound coming out of my sound booth at my house. It's pretty spectacular – a moment that was engraved in me. When he came over, he brought me this leather bracelet; he had engraved the date that we worked together, and it had my name on it. It was just a real cool night, man. Rarely do you get a different caliber of musician to do stuff like that, so any time you can have that happen is automatically a magical moment.

Interestingly enough, the band's been away for over a decade – a millennium in the music industry. Now that you're back doing it with Coal Chamber, how would you say the gap in time has affected audiences? Do you see a lot of guys in their 30s who were from the original era, or it mostly younger fans?

You know, it's really crazy. We do a Meet and Greet every night [for] 50 or 60 people before the doors open, then there's anywhere from 1,000 to whatever in the room. It's been very apparent to us that it's probably about 75 percent kids who were not even born when we released this stuff. Although we do have the 35-year-old cat bringing his nine or 10-year-old kid out to the gig to meet us, the whole front row is young kids. I don't know how that happens; it's a blessing for sure. But the diversity amongst the fans is really cool, man. And this is [on] the heels of a band that graced the cover of Kerrang! a million times, and Kerrang! will talk to us now and be like, 'Yeah, we'll come do an album review, but you guys are not really our demographic.' It's like 16 to 20-year old kids who read the mag, but Kerrang! hasn't been to a show and seen what's really going down. The United States was a real eye opener, and then we took it overseas. That was crazy. All of Chile and Mexico and Brazil...it was like young, young kids. I don't know how that happens, but you gotta feel like we struck a nerve somewhere down the line.

I had one kid who was like 17 say to me at a Meet & Greet, 'Dude, you started all this, man! You started all this scene!” I was like, “Started this scene? What scene? What bands do you think Coal Chamber started the scene of?' When he went through the list, I was Iike, “Huh. Okay.” I was actually taken aback; I was like, 'You know what? I see what he's talking about.' Anytime you can have influence on bands coming up, it's a good thing. When you get a diverse culture of people coming out to see you after being gone 13 years, you just kind of look up at the sky and say, 'Hail the Stars,' you know what I mean?

Who are some bands you're sharing stages with now who you watch and obviously feel that connection, that they got something from what you were doing back in the day?

It would be tremendously egotistical of me to point out bands, like, 'Oh, yeah. They directly took that from Coal Chamber.' I'm not even going to begin. But we did help a lot of bands come up. When we had Gold records, we took them out on tour and they are on the top pinnacle of their career now. It's good to see.

You're probably the only [interviewer] who hasn't asked me this, but everyone else asks me, 'So what do you think about this Nu Metal revolution coming back out?' It makes me laugh, because I'm thinking to myself, 'Dude, what are you talking about?” Slipknot are arguably one of the biggest bands on the planet next to Metallica and about as Nu Metal as it gets. System Of A Down, Korn, Deftones...I can just go on forever and ever. If you listen to and look at Five Finger Death Punch – Zoltan and those guys are good guys – they remind me of a Nu Metal band, in both their sound and their look. Obviously, that style of music has crossed through to different bands, and different bands have taken either the look or the sound or the arrangements that we all did and are putting it into current styles. Not only that, most of the large touring bands are from that era, so I don't think Nu Metal went away at all. It only became a dirty word when there was like a second wave of bands coming in that just did not fit what we were all doing and what we were all part of.

I talk to a lot of bands from the '90s who are now getting back into the groove and trying to see how things go in today's industry, which has obviously changed tenfold since Coal Chamber was active the first time around. But despite that, you had DevilDriver through all these major changes that have hit the industry – from social media to downloading. What have been some of the biggest lessons or experiences you've encountered in the last decade or so in this industry with DevilDriver that you hope to apply to Coal Chamber to maybe protect them from the issues that some of these bands are having coming back now because they don’t have that insight?

I think the main thing is communication. Then, in both bands, we make sure we do our own thing. In DevilDriver, we've done our own thing for 12 years. Only now in the last few years have people started calling us 'Groove Metal' or 'the California Groove Machine.' I take to social media and I'm like, 'Well, who else is in the 'Groove Metal' category, guys?' People come by and say, 'Nobody, just you guys.' That's a real killer thing. It's the same thing with Coal Chamber; it's like, 'Lets do our own thing,' It's why we didn't want to be part of some throwback '90s record; that's why we didn't want to do the nostalgic thing. We wanted to do what was coming out of us naturally now. So that will protect you; having your communication level open to the way it should be so you can talk anything out – both musically and personally. And then make sure that you're doing your own thing. If you're into a scene, by the time you're doing it and getting signed, it's going to be done and over with, so you might as well do something unique anyway and just throw it against the wall and hope it sticks. As an artist, that's what it's all about.

Don't skew your music toward any media outlet. That's another thing I would tell artists. I hear it all the time: 'Well, we've got to have our next radio track or we're done as a band. We've got to write a certain song that's got to be 2:58 or radio's not going to pick it up. In order to make this one TV show, we've got to cut a bunch of these lyrics and a bunch of this midsection, but we need the media outfit to help us to be the progenitor of what we're doing.' It's like, 'Wrong!' Maybe it's because I was born in '66 or raised by hippies or the rebellion within me, but art doesn't work that way. It's the same way a painter doesn't say, 'If I paint in these certain colors, I know I'm going to sell all my artwork at that show on Friday night.' That's the guy I don't want to buy and hang up in my house at all.

Be brave in what you do. Keep your communication open. Do something different and try to stand alone on your own merits. A perfect example would be 'I.O.U. Nothing,' the new song off of Rivals. I could have easily backed down the vocals a bit. It's hitting Active Rock Radio now, but is it going to go full bore Active Rock? Doubtfully, because I didn't compromise. I was like, 'No, I'm not taking that midsection down a bit. It needs to be heavy like that; that's where the art stands.' Just by the grace of the Gods, I don't have a label or anybody I employ around me who says, 'You need to change that for commerce.' We never skew our art for commerce or for the media. Those are the things that I would impart on new musicians.




What are Coal Chamber's longterm plans, and what are your plans in terms of DevilDriver? Are you looking to do both bands on a fairly regular basis moving ahead?

The thing is, me doing Coal Chamber really did happen coincidentally. I was taking two years off. I could easily record a Coal Chamber album and be home with my family; that's why I did it. I could easily jump out for a few tours with these guys and be home, but my main thing is making sure I finish off a nice, long break from DevilDriver and do some of these shows on the Coal Chamber record. But that being said, I'm going in to record a new DevilDriver record October/November of this year. There have been member changes, after we did Knotfest. Austin D'Amond is on drums and Neal Tiemann is on guitar. Neil and Mike Spreitzer working together is a whole other level of things going on...I'll probably start some shows in early 2016 with Devildriver, but right now, Rivals would be relatively new, so I definitely want to give it its time and due.

When people say, 'What is the longterm future of Coal Chamber?' that's what we don't get caught up in doing anymore. That's what we did when we were young; that's why we did so many tours with Pantera and Black Sabbath and Ozzfest and never came off the road. It ground the hell out of us and was one of the parts that separated the relationships, so we don't go there. We don't talk about the long term; what we do is say, 'Hey, was the last tour fun? Yes. Was it a success? Yes. Would you like to tour again? Sure, book it.' After the next one, we do the same thing. After this record, no doubt we'll be, 'How was the record received? Well. Did you have fun making it? Hell yeah! I had one of the best times of my life. I had laugh lines I'll never get rid of from having a good time. Would you like to make another one? You know what? Yes!' But that's how we're taking Coal Chamber. 

DevilDriver's a different mentality. You get a DevilDriver record out, and you light a flame through a rocket and you go. You burn down every city you possible can. You go city to city as long as you can possibly take it. After this long, I don't think Coal Chamber's going to work like that. We're going to take our time with it and go tour to tour and make sure we're having a good time going it. That's the key word here, man – fun.

This is not the easiest business in the world to survive in, let alone have the career you've had. Because you've got some traction now and some things in the rearview mirror, what do you see as the greatest key to longevity in this game?

My family and not thinking about this game. That's it. People say, 'How do you juggle two bands?' I say, 'I don't.' I put my family first, then I give the bands the time that they need. I believe the reason I've had the career I've have is because I have the strong support of a wife I've been with for a long time, and good kids that I've raised right, and I'm a very private and reclusive person with a handful of good friends. I can count my close, close friends on one hand. I'm not a 'backstage' kind of guy; I'm not a strip club kind of guy. I don't get caught up in any of the stuff that comes along with being in a band. I really don't enjoy the, I guess, fame that comes from it; what I enjoy is touring and being in different places. I enjoy being on the stage and doing music, and I enjoy being in the studio. But a lot of the extracurricular stuff can really get to me. 

To give you an example, it took the band a while to convince me to do the Meet and Greets, just because when you put me in a room with more than 10 people, I split. I've been that way since I was kid. I'm socially awkward to the point of, 'I'm outta here.' And I'm still working on that, even later on in life. I hand it to Coal Chamber, because when we did those Meet and Greets, I'd come out after each one and go, 'Hey, that was a good time.' It's a good time talking to that one person and hearing that one story or hearing that kid say how he found out about Coal Chamber, so I'm learning to work through that. Those things are what's helped me in a business that just absolutely eats its own. If you want to go ahead and get into the music industry, I'm not going to tell you not to, but I'm going to tell you to have a very thick skin. You'll learn a few things about yourself and other people in the first year. Trust me.  

*Some portions of the above interview were edited for clarity. 



Photo by Dan Santoni





READ JOEL'S BIO
PURCHASE JOEL'S BOOKS
EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

LIVE REVIEW - Faith No More, The Orpheum Theatre (Boston, MA) 5/11/15




Photo by Joel Gausten

First of all, how mind-blowing is it that Faith No More's history dates back nearly 35 years at this point? Almost decade-old veterans by the time they finally broke into the mainstream with 1989's The Real Thing, Faith No More offered a wild ride of unbridled ideas that helped usher in the Alternative explosion of the '90s. The massive success of the band's experimental sound signified a major cultural shift in mainstream music where a band as decidedly out there as this could actually sell millions of albums. (It was a wondrous time, wasn't it?) Returning in 2009 after an 11-year break, the band has successfully maintained their status as the ultimate example of how to balance commercial success with what the fuck? eclecticism.

Naturally, the band's May 11 performance at Boston's Orpheum Theatre was esoteric from the moment the pre-show music (a gloriously odd assortment of tunes that included “Moon River”) died down and the crowd roared. Decked out in white, the band hit the flower-covered stage with “Motherfucker,” one of the many instantly unforgettable songs featured on the upcoming (and absolutely arresting) reunion disc, Sol Invictus. It got better and better from there: Drummer Mike Bordin and bassist Billy Gould locked in as only a decades-long partnership could, while frontman Mike Patton's vocal acrobatics and playful audience antagonism was an enthralling as expected.

Admirably, the group developed a set list that played to their greatest strengths: While “Epic,” “Surprise! You're Dead!” and their classic rendition of The Commodores' “Easy” were expected highlights, the band earned full marks for delivering deeper, less accessible cuts like the 30-year-old “Mark Bowen” and two songs (“Last Cup Of Sorrow,” an amazing “Ashes To Ashes”) from 1997's still-brilliant (and often-overlooked) Album Of The Year. And there's something truly beautiful in the sight of bald, bearded Metal bros cheering the group's cheeky cover of The Bee Gees' “I Started A Joke.”

Looking around the Orpheum, it was difficult to ignore the many wide smiles in the crowd - the result of not only nostalgia, but of genuine excitement to once again take in something they simply can't with any other band. It must be gratifying for Patton and Co. to come back after such a long time away and have an entire theatre sing a verse of “Personality Crisis.” While a good chunk of their '90s peers failed to survive the ensuing years, Faith No More's return has reminded us all of the immortal power of a truly extraordinary song.

Faith No More's late '80s/early '90s arrival in the major leagues was a high point in an era defined by an impressive array of acts (Voivod, Living Colour, Prong, Soundgarden, Primus, the criminally ignored Mordred) that pushed Metal into new territories. Twenty-six years (!!) after The Real Thing infiltrated suburbia and widened the genre's vocabulary, the band is still one step ahead of the rest of us – and trying to catch up to them is still a joyous listening experience.

Official Faith No More Website

READ JOEL'S BIO
PURCHASE JOEL'S BOOKS
EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Sunday, April 26, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW - Bill Ward: Accountable Beasts






Earlier today, my recent feature on Bill Ward saw an unexpected postscript when I was received word that Accountable Beasts, Ward's first solo album in 18 years, quietly appeared on iTunes last night for the world to purchase and experience. This jaw-dropping announcement was clearly prompted by iTunes' surprisingly swift processing and posting of the album, a process that (as explained in my interview with Bill) was originally expected to take a couple of months. No matter when and how Accountable Beasts' arrival on computers and in earbuds around the world actually came to be, the important thing is that the album is finally here.

Here are some thought at first listen:

It takes only the first 60 seconds of the album-opening “Leaf Killers” to inform us that Accountable Beasts (which features Ward handling lead vocals on all tracks) will be an intense ordeal. Chilling orchestration and operatic female vocals permeate the proceedings, giving listeners an aural haunted house tour more akin to Cradle of Filth than the mellower sounds featured on Ward's previous album, 1997's When The Bough Breaks. The power continues through the firery, near-Industrial charge of the title track, while the menacingly mid-tempo “Katastrophic World” is the track on Accountable Beasts that most captures the spirit of classic Black Sabbath, thanks to Keith Lynch's heavy riffing and Ward's unmistakable drumming. The Metal power displayed on “Katastrophic World” reaches its zenith on the raging “Ashes,” which finds Ward's most incendiary solo album performance ever matched by some truly scorching work by longtime Bill Ward Band guitarist Lynch.

However, those expecting a full-on Metal assault throughout Accountable Beasts will instead encounter an album that mostly feels more like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band than Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. The experimental “First Day Back” mixes touches of Psychedelica and Funk to offer the album's most eclectic moment, while the keyboard-driven “D.O.T.H.” soars thanks to Ward's McCartneyesque vocals and the unforgettable female voices that accompany them. The Beatles feel can also be felt on the understated “As It Is In Heaven.”

Originally released in 2002 as a charity single, the urgent (and 9/11-inspired) “Straws” makes a return appearance on Accountable Beasts, offering a harrowing narrative of a man desperate to protect his family as war breaks out around them. ("How am I supposed to save you, in this chaos?/ Clinging, please don't die/ Where are the defenses we were promised?/ Oh, I hope that they've arrived.") The album concludes with the 10-minute epic ballad “The Wall Of Death,” another brilliant reminder of Ward's ability to step away from the confines of Metal and produce music of stunning beauty and depth.

Considering the media frenzy surrounding Ward and Sabbath lately, Accountable Beasts will surely receive more attention than any of his past solo endeavors. Thankfully, the album is strong enough to put the naysayers in their place and fascinating enough to encourage those new to Ward's previous non-Sabbath work to track down those extraordinary records and hear what they've been missing all these years.

It is quite possible that I'll post another review of Accountable Beasts in another six months or so once I've had some real time with it. As I've learned with Ward's previous albums, it's important to really study and listen to what he comes up with, as there is often much more going on with his solo work than meets the ear during the first – or 50th – listen. (Heck, I'm still examining and dissecting Ward One: Along The Way 20-plus years after buying it.) Taking in an album as intense and involved as Accountable Beasts in one sitting is a daunting – actually, an impossible – task. But exploring Accountable Beasts further is absolutely a journey worth taking, and I hope this quick review encourages you to join the ride.

Accountable Beasts is available on iTunes. More information is available at www.AstonCrossMusic.com and www.BillWard.com.


READ JOEL'S BIO
PURCHASE JOEL'S BOOKS
EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Thursday, April 23, 2015

FEATURE - Beyond the Beasts: Bill Ward Moves On



Photo by Joel Gausten

If you're a fan of Black Sabbath, there is a very strong chance you've been paying close attention to the Internet over the last few days.

In postings found elsewhere on the Web, drummer Bill Ward and singer Ozzy Osbourne engaged in a very public war of words over events that transpired during and after the ill-fated reunion of the original members of Sabbath in 2011/2012. Unfortunately, the dark clouds generated by the situation have obscured some of the very positive news surrounding not only Ward's health, but his long-awaited return to music.

We're talking two bands and two albums here, folks. But before getting into all of that, let's back things up a couple of weeks.

As many diehard Bill Ward fans already know, Ward made other headlines late last month when he made a special guest appearance at the Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp “Masters of Metal” event at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Boasting the involvement of other heavyweights like Michael Schenker (UFO/MSG/Scorpions) and Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), “Masters of Metal” allowed “fantasy campers” to jam with and learn from some of their musical heroes. Instead of showing up and immediately rocking out in Metal glory, Ward decided to give the campers an intriguing history lesson.

I didn't want to do any Sabbath music,” he says. “Normally, when an artist shows up, they play things that they're most famous for or things like that... Instead, I wanted to do things that were influential to me before Black Sabbath. That's an important part of music as well, obviously. We decided to do some regular standard things, some Blues things. We did some Hendrix, Cream... For the drummers there, I wanted to do simple Bo Diddley rhythms, “Not Fade Away” probably being the most famous of them all. I wanted to focus on what things would be nice for drummers to play. We included a Blues song called 'Im Going Down,' which is basically four-on-the-floor... I had two youngsters playing with me; one of them was 10. He played unbelievably good. He was absolutely brilliant!”

Ward was especially blown away by the high level of enthusiasm and skill evident among the various campers who took part in the festivities.

I think the youngest guys were like six, maybe seven years old, and then we had guys about the same age as me!” he adds. “Everybody could rock; everybody was really nice and just so ambitious and so happy to be there. [My time there] was a very high-energy, well-meaning four/five-hour ecstasy of fun. For me, it was very enjoyable.”

Of course, Ward's participation in Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp signified his long-awaited public return to the drums. Mere days after having a shoulder operation in early October 2013, he suffered a perforated diverticulitis and underwent emergency surgery. The illness stopped Ward in his tracks for months.

When I got sick, that took center stage, so my shoulder was almost abandoned by everybody; they said, 'We're going to have to go back to the shoulder,'” he recalls. “Normally, after you have an operation on your rotator cuff – which is not uncommon for drummers who slam – it's usually two or three days of rest, and then you start to work and exercise it and you get back into shape. I've done this before; it's happened before and I worked throught it. As long as you do all the exercises, that's that. But I arrived back in the land of the living back in February of 2014 with a frozen shoulder.”

Fortunately, this setback didn’t derail the timekeeper for very long.

My [current] activity levels are very high; they have to be,” offers Ward, who says that he's now drumming four to six hours a day. “Because I did have something of a busted-up wing, if you like, I've really worked hard on that. But I'm playing at full capacity. By May of last year, I was definitely in shape to be able to play for sustaining amounts of time.”

Ward's time behind the kit these days is divided between his long-running Bill Ward Band (BWB) and a second, yet-to-be announced project (currently a trio) with guitarist Joe Amodea (who is the six-stringer featured in the much-discussed Instagram video made public last week). BWB is the group behind the soon-to-be-released Accountable Beasts, Ward's first solo album in 18 years. In addition to longtime BWB members Keith Lynch (guitar, keyboards), Paul Ill (bass) and Ronnie Ciago (drums), the album will feature contributions by drummer Walter Earl and an array of session singers including Ward's daughter, Emily. Ward's drumming will be heard on seven of the album's nine tracks.

Those familiar with Ward's 1990 solo debut Ward One: Along The Way and 1997's When The Bough Breaks know that the music released under his own steam (and often featuring his lead vocals) is usually a reflection of his softer, more soulful side. How does Accountable Beasts compare to these two previous releases?

It's much tougher; it kicks harder,” he reveals. “Most of the stuff is pretty heavy on it. It's very current lyrically. I don't intend to be current with anything; I just write the music and allow it to just be whatever it is. But when I listened to it in hindsight - we did the final mastering on January 6 of this year - I thought, 'Oh my God! A lot of the stuff we're writing about is on TV every day. Most of [the album] is about religion; most of it's about war. It's the stuff that makes the world turn 'round every day. It's about people's souls being ripped to pieces. I guess it could be called morbid, but at the same time I'm also hoping it can be called energizing and respectful lyrically. I've worked really hard on trying to produce something that would mean something to the listener who's drawn in by the music.

We got pretty crazy on this one,” he adds. “We just played; it was like, 'Fuck everything.' I wanted to go back to a place that I really know well, and that's playing hard.”

Accountable Beasts' life began around 2008, when Ward sought a creative way to take a breather from Beyond Aston, the solo album he has worked on in bits and pieces since the late '90s.

I tried to do something really stupid,” he recalls. “I tried to go, 'You know what? Let's keep [Beyond Aston] on hold and let's just put out something quick now.' It had been a while, and I thought, 'This is taking a long time; let's just do a quick album.'

Songs were written, plans were set...and then the realities of life took over.

I don't always have a huge budget to do these things, so we do it piecemeal,” Ward explains. “What I thought was going to be a relatively quick album [to] just get it out there to the public turned out to be nothing like that... I spent a year with Black Sabbath in 2011; I spent half of 2012 waiting to see what Black Sabbath might want to do in case they changed their minds. I re-kickstarted the finalization of Accountable Beasts in May of 2013. It took another while to get the final mixes – and of course it didn't help with me getting sick. I lost about five months.”

Heath and issues within Sabbath weren't the only roadblocks, as Ward also had to confront the challenges of ever-evolving technology.

While we're going through this process of trying to make music, times change - but so do electronics, hard drives [and] digital inputs,” he observes. “We [were] looking around and going, 'Oh my God! A lot of the things we started out with are all obsolete!' One of the biggest things I realized is that most people listen to music on earbuds. I was still laboring under the impression that people were going to be listening to this thing on speakers! It dawned on me that we would have to change all the mixes to an earbud mix. In the fall of 2014, I earbud-mixed every single track on Accountable Beasts; we went through everything again until we go it working in the earbud so it will hopefully sound good to the listener from an earbud point of view. I picked up some earbuds for about $25, and we did the entire album on $25 earbuds... That 'quick album' turned out to be an excursion for, what, six years?”

The self-released Accountable Beasts is expected to arrive on iTunes (complete with an extensive digital booklet) within the next couple of months.* Physical copies will also be made available.

Once Accountable Beasts is in the world, Ward will devote time to concluding Beyond Aston. He plans to be in final mixing mode by this September to finish things off. (One confirmed track, “Poppies,” is an emotional anti-war number inspired by the tradition of wearing a poppy on November 11 in honor of those who perished in battle.) Not surprisingly, Ward couldn't be more excited to reach this point with Beyond Aston after so many years.

It's fucking great; it's beautiful, man,” he says of the album. “I hope other people will like it. I think it's one of the best things I've participated in since Master Of Reality.”

The impending arrival of Accountable Beasts and Beyond Aston not only represents the final step in a years-long journey for Ward, but also serves as a reminder of the talents and contributions of his longtime cohorts. Keith Lynch has been a major part of Ward's solo endeavors since before Ward One: Along The Way, while Ill and Ciago have been part of the team for nearly two decades. Clearly, Ward has found a special combination of musicians that works.

The biggest and most important thing is they let me be who I am,” he explains. “I'm all over the place; every time I get up in the morning, I don't know if I'm going to be writing a song or not writing a song. Usually, I'll write something every day or come up with ideas all the time - 24/7 - and they let me be who I am. They let me go to wherever I've gotta go. They know that I'll come to them when I've got something in a rough working format, and then I'll ask them to see what they can do and explode on or where they want to go with [it]. They're very patient, which I think is the most important thing in the Bill Ward Band. They're all good musicians; there's a lot of ebb and flow. They allow me to be me. I need to have that; I need to be able to have the room to say, 'No, let's go here' and try different things all the time.”

Music isn't the only way that Ward has expressed himself in recent times. As previously discussed on this site, Ward unveiled his special fine art series, Absence of Corners, in the summer of 2013. Boasting 15 fine art pieces and billed as “a collection of rhythm on canvas,” Absence of Corners was created by Ward in collaboration with the Los Angeles-based visual art team SceneFour. As described on the project’s extensive (and aesthetically amazing) website (www.billwarddrumart.com), Ward “utilized a sophisticated formula to create the collection’s visuals, using an array of drumsticks and rhythmic accessories that produce light, much like a painter utilizing brushes and oils. The movements featured within the captured rhythms are then studied and developed into abstract artwork that showcases a dimension not normally seen by the human eye.” Each numbered piece in the collection comes signed by the man himself.

In May 2014, Ward appeared at the Annapolis Collection Gallery in Annapolis, MD for a special two-day event that included public discussions of his art, private VIP receptions for buyers and (on the first night) a celebration of his 66th birthday complete with a vegan cake. In addition to providing an opportunity for Ward to showcase and discuss his various art pieces, the Maryland events offered the drummer a chance to connect with several fans and admirers in an intimate setting.

Meeting everybody, sitting down with everybody, holding hands, hugging each other and doing all of that communication was such an honorable thing to do and be a part of,” he says. “For me, it was just like man... I was on fucking fire, you know? It don't get no better than that, when you're meeting everybody that you love, and you know that they love you.”

Although the Maryland jaunt was ultimately a joyous occasion for Ward, he admits that the experience did come with some ups and downs.

When we did Absence of Corners [and] when we were in Annapolis, I was still in a lot of grief,” he shares. “First of all, I was grieving the loss of one of my best friends; that was Ozzy Osbourne. I missed him so much; it was just devastating to me. When I did the presentations of the paintings, there were some things that I was describing about some of [them]... and I know I was crying. I was still very much attached to all of the things that had held me tightly in Black Sabbath. There was my loyalty [and] love for the band. To create the things that we created together for years and years and years... I was in the grief of recognizing the new reality that I was [no longer] part of that. I don't want to bring up the issue because I've already very clearly stated it publicly, but there were some things that were going on that were really not okay for me. It was really painful to read some of the things I had read. I'm not saying that I've been a victim, as I've been told just recently, or [say this] out of self-pity, because I wasn't in any self-pity, either. I don't live there; I always get up and get going again.”

Despite recent turmoil within the Sabbath camp, nothing can take away how much the band's music has meant to people. Two months ago, the first Black Sabbath album – and the true start of what we all know as Heavy Metal – turned 45. Why does Ward feel this album continues to resonate so strongly for so many?

I believe that the first album has always been current,” he replies. “We were able to put something together that was completely current then and is just as current today. When you've got something that makes sense every day for 45 years, then you've really got something. Unfortunately, some of the things we were talking about, singing about and playing about are never-ending topics. War, hardship, addiction, losing one's self, losing one's soul, looking at things that we have to confront and overcome... it's exactly the same story today. I can put that record on right now – in fact, I probably will – [and] it's still one of my favorite records. The song 'Black Sabbath' is still the rallying point... Black Sabbath is a band you can hold onto and say 'Yeah!' and have something to bring comfort and whatever it brought to the individual listener... I think all of that is still in that album, and it continues to provide nourishment for everyone who can receive the nourishment from it. I think it's just generational. Unfortunately, we have exactly the same hardships - even worse in some cases - now than we did when we did [the album]. Things were really bad when we did that; the world was fucking on fire. And it's on fire now. Put the TV on today; the fucking world's on fire.”

With two new albums ready to go and and two bands to keep him busy, Bill Ward is not about to let his critics have the final word. Looking back at his tumultuous recent past, Ward says he found his greatest inner peace the same way he has since childhood – through music.

Where I've had to find solace is in moving ahead, embracing myself as a drummer and knowing full well that I'm utterly capable of playing,” he says. “In fact, in my trio where I only play drums, I've made it hard on myself, and I did that in Black Sabbath as well. I'm the hardest person on me – harder than my fellow band members could ever be. I find solace in being able to work past my difficulties, put myself in a position where I deliberately or unconsciously deliberately play in a trio where I have to play much harder than I would in Black Sabbath. I'm doing things now with bass, drums and control of cymbals at high speed that we never, ever even came close to doing in Black Sabbath. I'm always striving for the betterment of myself, and I find solace in that.”



*Update 4/26/15Accountable Beasts was quietly and unexpectedly released on iTunes last night. Go here or ordering info. Read my review of the album here. 


Bill Ward and Joel Gausten (photo by Cory Danziger)





READ JOEL'S BIO
PURCHASE JOEL'S BOOKS
EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com