Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Behind the music - where you can smell all of the band's farts" - or "How to succeed in Grindcore without really trying"

Here's the latest installment in the continuing adventures of a lovable gang of misfits who must band together to overcome the odds and win the campus ski tournament, defeating the smarmy jocks and winning the heart of the pretty girl who is obviously too sensitive and sweet to be dating the leader of said smarmy jocks. Oh wait... I thought we were in an 80s movie there for a second. Nonetheless, the usual gang of idiots is at it again, pooling their collective, ummm... I was going to say talents, but that's a bit of a stretch, but the point is - we're making a new fucking record. It's going to be called "All Guts, No Glory" and we're recording in Arizona. Here's the fucking details:

Day 1 - Tuesday: After arriving in Los Angeles around 1:30 am with Wes in tow, we grabbed a well-deserved Burrito and arrive at Leon’s house about the same time as he does. We enjoy a few cold beers and unwind, even though we have to get up in a few hours and head off to LAX. I get up early and shower anyway, then we arrive at the airport with a minimum of hassles. One and a half uneventful hours later, we’re in Arizona and are welcomed by our old friend Ryan Butler (Unruh, Landmine Marathon, etc.), who will be recording the remainder of the tracks for the album – guitars, bass, vocals, incidentals, etc. Nothing particularly interesting happened after that, we hang out for a while, have a few beers and some food and then off to bed to get started in the morning.

Day 2- Wednesday: After discovering that Busch 30-packs were only $15 at the local Walgreens, we stocked Ryan’s mini-fridge and started thinking about guitar tones… Many guitarists are fucking obsessed with tone and Wes (especially) and I are no exception. The plan was to record four rhythm guitars and we had already decided to use Wes’ Marshall JCM 800 as the core sound for the rhythm guitars on the record, but the tone for the other two tracks would have to be sorted out in the studio. Luckily, Ryan has a killer arsenal of amps at his studio (Arcane Digital in Phoenix- yes this is a plug for the place, it rules!) so we had a lot of shit to choose from.

We settled on a two amp set up with a Bogner Uberschall and an Engl Powerball, for a bit brighter, crisper tone than the Marshall. It was a bit weird hearing all the songs with this tone first (since these tracks were planned to sit a little lower in the final mix, we recorded them first since the playing invariably improves as you do more takes), but by the end of day, we had a tone we were happy with and we had dug into a couple of tunes already.

Day 3- Thursday: Rhythm guitar is always the thing that eats up the most time in the studio for us and although we knew that going in, the fact that we had 17 songs to work through was beginning to sink in. Wes was up first, focusing on recording his songs. We had discussed having him track all the rhythm guitars, as Mike Beams had done in the past (in case you’re wondering, that means that I tracked a grand total of none of the rhythm guitars on “Gore Metal”, “Slaughtercult”, and “Anatomy…”- thanks Mike!) but he and Ryan convinced me to go with a “you wrote it, you record it” philosophy common in many bands with two guitarists. Needless to say, lazy prick that I am, I was not entirely enamored with that decision, and to be honest, I was a little intimidated having to record rhythm guitars (although I did record all the rhythm tracks on “Garbage Daze…” and the bass on “Slaughtercult”, there's a lot less pressure there). Luckily for me, I didn’t have to jump in too quickly, as Wes led the way, laying down some crushing stuff on a bunch of his songs (and one of mine too, by the time all was said and done).

Another great thing about recording with Ryan is that he, like myself, is a giant nerd. While listening to Wes’ tracks, I availed myself of the opportunity to devour back issues of Marvel’s “New Avengers” series by Brian Michael Bendis, which impressed the shit out of me. What can I say, I am a HUGE Avengers fan – I think I even posted a picture of my extremely beat-up copy of Avengers #1 on Facebook a while ago. And yes, I am fucking beyond psyched about the upcoming movies. Anyway, between guitars, comics and the Giants kicking the crap out of the Rangers in the World Series, I had no problem filling any downtime in the studio

Day 4- Friday: I ended up tracking a bunch of stuff on day 4, and it ended up turning out pretty okay. The tone had a little more high-end than I’m used to, and I definitely ended up hearing a little of the “twang” that I picked up from playing with Matt Olivo in Repulsion (the distinctive JCM800 + tube screamer Repulsion twang) than I’m used to, but anything Repulsion related is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. It also started to become clear that with the amount of material vs. the amount of time that we had for rhythm guitars, we weren’t going to be able to be quite as anal retentive about guitar as we were on “Anatomy…” (which, ironically, we had less time to record), and would have to let go any hopes of eliminating every trace of string noise, every slightly over-accented note, etc. etc. This was actually a blessing in disguise.

All of us in the band feel like “Anatomy…” was a little too clean sounding (funnily enough, that’s exactly what Neil Kernon told me when I was telling him to make it as clean as possible) and wanted a sound that was a bit more off-the-cuff this time around. By the end of the day, almost all of the Bogner / Engl tracks were done and we were really, really tired of drinking Busch. I retired to the good ol’ Super 8 looking forward to Saturday – when we would set up the Marshall and Leon would arrive in AZ.

Tune in next time, same bat-time, same bat-channel, for the next exciting chapter in the seemingly never-ending saga of this fucking album. Oh yeah, and we'll put up some pictures, too.


Harvey and the usual gang of idiots

Monday, October 4, 2010

Exhuming Exhumed: Once more into the breach, dear fiends...

Friday October 1st found your humble narrator once more headed southbound on US Highway 101 towards Camarillo. With Wes and Danny in tow, and southern California traffic in full-on snarl mode, we continued south to grab Danny's drum kit, and then onwards to Corona, California, a southeastern suburb of Los Angeles, and a town we've played many times at the sadly defunct Showcase Theater. In fact, I actually met Danny and Wes for the first time at one of those shows! The excessive LA traffic could only be coped with by enjoying some little-remembered Death Metal gems by Demilich, Mordicus, Disgrace, Xysma, and Carbonized. Initially, we had planned to record the drums October 15-17 but, due to Danny's impending Intronaut tour (supporting Helmet) which kicks off this weekend, we had to push the dates forward. Things were a bit rushed, but overall confidence was high heading into the process. This past weekend was (as anyone on Facebook probably already knew) Leon's birthday, so he ended up staying in Echo Park and no doubt destroying brain cells by the thousand while we toiled at the sweaty work of laying down the drum tracks for album number four.

We arrived at Trench studios after nine pm Friday, where we met up with engineer John Haddad (ex-Phobia Drummer, and producer of bands from Hirax to Intronaut and many, many others in between) to set up the kit. John used to play drums in Phobia years ago and has been around the LA and OC scenes for a long time. In fact he's recorded many of my friends' bands, and worked with Danny on Phobia and Intronaut records, but somehow I had never actually met the guy before Friday night. Being a drummer puts him in a great position to understand what goes into getting great drum tones and his experience in the scene has gives him the right perspective to properly record the heaviest, noisiest, fastest shit. You can see this extremely flattering shot of the back of his head just above, taken by our staff photographer, Wes Caley. Trench is set up in John's house, a spacious place with a great backyard, a lazy cat, and most importantly, a pool and jacuzzi. After a long day of driving, Wes and I headed to the AM/PM for (surprise!) beer, while Danny and John got things going. After setting up the drums themselves and the microphones, it was too late to get much else accomplished besides inebriation and sleep.

The next day, we were up and running by noon-ish and things were finally underway. Wes and I switched off playing scratch guitar tracks (I played the songs I wrote and vice versa) as guides for Danny. While Wes was tracking I took advantage of the opportunity to watch the extremely frustrating SF Giants Saturday game and get myself properly pissed off. The tracking started a little slowly, but after the first three songs were completed, we were clearly on a roll. The heat in the control room was stifling (sweat was literally pouring off my face while tracking), and I can only imagine how toasty Danny must have been blasting his way though eleven songs that day. By then it was time to adjourn to the jacuzzi and enjoy the reward for a day's work well done: several dozen beers. Gravehill drummer and all around swell guy Rhett “Thorgrimm” Davis and my long time sister-of-metal Lili stopped by to hang out with us, John and his roommates, Scott from Abysmal Dawn and “Bubbles” (so named because he was so shit-faced that he turned the bubbles in the jacuzzi on with his belly while crawling over the control panel on his way in). If you can enjoy the photo of our man stew above, you've got a stronger constitution than I. Exhausted but extremely happy with the progress we'd made, we headed to a nearby Motel 6 for a more tranquil night's sleep.

The next day, after some really gnarly (in the bad way) veggie burgers from Denny's (I'm glad that I opted to wait and get a turkey sandwich and an apple at AM/PM) we returned to the Trench to pick up where we left off. All of Wes' songs had been tracked on day 1, so I settled into the control room to knock out the last four songs we're considering for the album and the three bonus tracks. One song still had some arrangements to be finalized – after all we'd only had four rehearsals – and that was the last one we completed after re-recording one tune from the previous day. You can see Danny above left, feigning amusement as he hears me utter the phrase "Sorry Dave, it's just not fast enough" in my best impression of Mick Harris' accent from the Hard n' Heavy Grindcore edition videotape. That handsome beast below left is yours truly, looking moderately confused and tracking scratch guitars - which is an improvement, as I'm usually feeling extremely confused while playing.We finished strong around five o'clock by which point, Danny's brain and endurance were pretty much maxed out. After hitting the nearby Del Taco for what felt like the millionth time that weekend (Friday night, Saturday mid-day, Sunday evening twice) Danny and John settled in to edit the drums and make sure all was as it should be while Wes and I watched TV and I snuck in a nap in anticipation of the long drive ahead. 18 songs were edited and double checked, and everything was loaded onto a flash drive by midnight or so, and we all packed back into the car to head home.

The ride home was a strange mixture of feeling exhausted from the work and energized by the great performances Danny had just put in. Wes and I developed a concept that Leon had come up with for the cover and we finally nailed down what we want to do for the artwork, which was a big question mark resolved. With Weird Al Yankovic in the background, we discussed more ideas about what we wanted to do in the studio as far as guitars, bass and vocals at the end of the month. Having three weeks between recording the drums and everything else is definitely a little weird and frustrating, since we were all really pumped about the work Danny had done and excited to get underway with everything, but we'll use the intervening time to refine our ideas, practice along to the drum tracks, and write our solos. I personally can't wait to head to Arizona to get the rest of the record done at Arcane Digital Recording.

I dropped the lads off at their respective homes in Camarillo and headed north into the light early morning drizzle towards the Central Coast and home. Feeling a little reflective, I put on some Sigur Ros (my favorite band at the moment) and contemplated what we had accomplished and what lay ahead. Considering that at the beginning of the year I was living 2,500 miles away and hadn't been in a band for over a year and a half, and now I'm recording the first album of new Exhumed material in seven (!) years, 2010 has been interesting to say the least.

Stay tuned for more exciting chronicles of our never-ending battle for truth, justice and free beer. Oh yeah, and we'll have news about some shows in Europe soon as well. I look forward to boring the pants off you all again soon with the next installment of an ongoing series that I wanted to call“The Life and Times of Mortimer McPherson, Enterprising Boy Bootblack - a Profile in Pluck”. Unfortunately, that idea was vetoed by the suits at Relapse, and now I'm stuck writing about my band instead.

That's all folks!

Harvey and the usual gang of idiots...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Exhuming Exhumed, the saga continues...

Exhuming Exhumed: Parte the second, in which four enterprising lads perform musical compositions of dubious quality for the first time

Despite having a shitload of music and lyrics that I've been really confident with for months, a few key elements for the record had been missing thus far, namely actual rehearsals, the album title, and the artwork concept. After weeks of coming up with potential titles to no avail, I was driving home from work a couple of weeks ago and, of course, the idea came to me instantly, no thesaurus, notebook, or search engine needed. That makes the artwork concept a lot easier to work towards, and was a real relief, as well as a nice kick in the ass to get going on the record. And yeah, I can't reveal the album title yet or any song titles, so please don't ask. Feeling galvanized just by coming up with a title, I was really chomping at the bit to get going with a proper rehearsal.

Everyone's schedules are kind of crazy so it had taken a little while to get things lined up for us to even get in the same room together up to this point. In fact, plans were still up in the air as far as where the actual rehearsal would finally take place when I headed south to the the sunny, mild climes of Camarillo to meet up with Wes. The first night, Sunday, we just hung out had a few (dozen) beers and a few laughs, before getting down to brass tacks on Monday. Monday ended up being just Wes and I fine-tuning and brushing up on songs and riffs, with me getting to try out my guitar after a full set-up for the first time. That felt awesome- like I had just gotten an entirely new, totally kick-ass axe. (Thanks again, Wes!) So after about four hours of serious work, Natural Ice took its toll and we ended up spending the last hour or so laughing our asses off while trading Dismember, Carnage, Entombed, Carcass, Obituary, Death, and Autopsy riffs back and forth. The next day we met up with percussionist extraordinaire Danny Walker after he got off work, and the three of us headed south to the mean streets of Vernon (basically L.A.) where Intronaut and Murder Construct practice. You can see Wes to the left, performing the all-important first step in any Exhumed practice.

I have a bit of a confession to make here: My usual strategy is to always project confidence no matter what the circumstance, which usually works out pretty well, but I can now admit to feeling a certain level of trepidation before we got started. Sure, we had been working for months on these songs individually, and had talked on the phone, via email, text, hung out and had a few beers, etc. etc. but Tuesday night would be the true trial by fire- not only for the new material, but really for our entire method of putting the album together. If the practice was a disaster, we really wouldn't have the time or money to get shit sorted out in time for the record. Plus, it was my first real band rehearsal in about two years. While warming up on one of the riffs from a new song of ours, Danny joined in, then Wes started playing, and before we knew it we had played pretty much the whole song. Then we started from the beginning and nailed it and all my fears melted away immediately. Leon arrived shortly thereafter and added some nice Repulsion Bass Grind rumble to the proceedings.

We made it through nine songs in all that night and, of course I'm biased here... but, I thought shit sounded intense as fuck. It was a big relief that things got going really naturally and felt easy and, well, I can't think of a better word for it than normal. It was like putting on your favorite old t-shirt that you always wear to shows or something – it just felt like Exhumed. Of course, not everyone knew every riff to every song, and some songs took a couple of tries to get through, but really things went great overall. In-jokes were bantered, dolphins (see the pic of Danny above), Ted Sanchez, butter and farts were discussed, PBRs were drained, we all shared some rad Mike Beams anecdotes, and a good time was had by all- even Leon, who was dead tired and super stressed with the prep work for Murder Construct's shows with Venomous Concept (which are happening as I type this) - see pic at right. All told, we played for about three and a half hours and I left not having to worry about projecting confidence, because I was charged up as fuck and truly very, very confident with our progress and our ability to be ready to go into the studio to cut the drum tracks in three scant weeks.

As I drove home up the coast of California after parting ways with the boys I felt better than ever about the new record and the way that everything has been coming together. So good news all around. Next year is getting interesting with plans for Europe already starting to take shape, and I'm feeling like we have our shit in a state more resembling togetherness than I thought. Anyway, tune in next time, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel for more chapters in the seemingly never-ending battle to complete this record.


Harvey and the usual gang of idiots

Friday, September 3, 2010

Well, it’s high time for another update, but the thing is, there isn’t much to be updated. Things have been in transition, but they‘re about to get hectic. I’ve just found a job, and Wes has relocated back to Camarillo (also home to the one and only Danny Walker, and closer to my neck of the woods than his former digs in OC), so we’ll rehearse there when things are more settled, probably starting next week. In the meantime, Mr. Caley has been diligently creating a new set of pre-production versions of the new tunes.

During the writing process, Wes and I each recorded rough versions of our material. My gear was pretty rudimentary and outdated, including my buddy's Dr. Rhythm Section drum machine from the 1990s (Thanks Ace!), and Wes’ setup was more sophisticated, using Guitar Rig 3 and Drumkit From Hell. This meant that his tracks not only sounded a lot better than mine, but a lot different. The difference between our recordings also made it tough to get a cohesive “album“ feel for things. After Wes and I discussed arrangement changes and ideas, which will undoubtedly be tweaked yet again before we properly record, Wes volunteered to create new versions of the songs from the ground up, including the changes we’d worked out, also enabling us to hear all the songs with the same recording quality- helping it sound like, you know - an ALBUM. So, by the time we actually track the record, it’ll be the third time that most of these songs will have been recorded. Yeesh… That said, these new tracks have been coming out great, and that’s been keeping Wes busy.

I, on the other hand, spent a couple of weeks going through all the lyrics with a fine-toothed comb to make sure they were coherent, interesting, and most importantly, that they worked with the actual music. Then came the task of divvying them up between myself, Leon, and Wes, as well as determining where we’d to use a “chorus” style of vocals like we had done on Slaughtercult (in “Slave To The Casket” and “Slaughtercult” for example). More work goes into creating this crap than you might think, let me tell ya. I'm finally confident with everything, and after getting the seal of approval from old friend and literature post-graduate Matt Widener (ex-Exhumed, Cretin, Citizen), as well as Col (Jones - who I started the band with in ‘91) who is the first to tell me when something is “gay“, I can relax and know I‘ve got something worth a shit.

In the past, I’d usually have lyrics written before any corresponding music, then I’d have to try to get the words to match up with the songs we’d written. That is not a system I wanted to continue using. This time around, aside from maybe a couple of individual lines, rhymes, or song title ideas, I wrote everything after already having music to work with. I was consciously trying to prevent the excess of verbiage that weighed down the “Anatomy…” material. I think it will have worked, but I can’t know for sure until we’re listening back to the songs in the studio. I’ve never sung at practices, in fact I haven’t owned a microphone since the mid ‘90s, and I’ve never owned a PA. So, until recording, no one has actually heard how the lyrics go, not even me, although I usually have a very good idea of what it‘ll sound like. Since Ross has been out of the band for over 10 years now, I’ve been the sole lyricist, which isn’t the way I‘d want things. The collaborative effort can bring out some really good stuff, and getting an outside opinion is incredibly valuable, but hey, nowadays at least there are fewer songs about penises than we used to have.

Meanwhile, since returning from the Cynic / Dysrhythmia / Intronaut tour, Danny has been busy working with the pre-production tracks and memorizing (or re-memorizing) the songs. One thing that’s great about working with him is that he does his homework and puts in the time to get his shit together before we practice, rather than using rehearsal time to learn things on the fly. He instinctively grasps what it is that we’re trying to do, so even if he’s learning one of our older tunes where the production and playing isn’t the keenest, he gets the intent, and then plays it the way we meant to do in the first place. The first time we practiced with him, he played our 13 song set straight through in one go with no mistakes.

Leon has been working with the temp tracks, working out bass lines from the guitar tab I’ve sent him and Wes. Also, I’ve conveniently color-coded all the lyrics so he can at least have an idea where he’ll be singing. Everything is described as far as its placement in the song as well (e.g. “over the sliding blast beat pre-chorus riff” or “over the 1st and third times of the verse riff”) so we can hit the ground running in the studio.

This whole process is worlds away from how we did the “Anatomy…” record, or how we’ve done any previous record (except for the “Garbage Daze…” cover album, but that was still a bit different) where we simply practiced more before recording - increasing from one or two days a week to three or four. Our pre-production in the past consisted of a boom box with a condenser mic, or an old 4-track with one mic in the middle of the room recording onto a cassette. Both ways have their advantages of course, this one is a bit less time-intensive as a group, but more so for each of us as individuals. Spending two or three hours a night at your jam room is great, but it made more sense when we were younger, individually and as a band. Those were the times when spending all night obsessing over a note change in a riff feels like the most important thing in the world. With the line-up we have now, we’re all more confident and experienced, and if something doesn’t work, we simply trash it and move on, rather than spending hours arguing about what purpose each note plays in making whatever riff sound whatever way it’s supposed to or whatever. It helps that we're all fairly prolific writers. There are no egos and the obsessive analysis of every little thing (as a group) subsided years ago, right around when “Gore Metal” came out. The music comes quickly and naturally, and we have a sense of what the band IS, rather than groping for a “sound” or “direction“.

It’s weird because the musical part of the process is fairly effortless, but getting it all together in a way where everyone can relate to it independently without the “rehearsal room” dynamic takes time and can be tedious. As much as I sometimes miss hanging out in a smelly rehearsal room with every available inch of wall space covered with posters and working through things bit by bit by bit, the way we’re putting things together now allows us all more space and time to live our lives (and work our jobs, and play in other bands at times). Living in different areas, it’s almost essential to work this way, and without the technology that’s available these days, it’d be a lot harder to get shit together. At the end of the day, we all know and trust each other enough to work up good stuff on our own, without having to look over each others’ shoulders and hyper-analyze every drum fill, lick, riff, piece of wordplay, rhyme scheme, bass line, etc.

Although many people regard this as a “new” line-up of the band, it doesn’t feel “new” at all. We have all played together extensively (albeit sometimes in different combinations), and we feel confident in each other’s abilities. This isn‘t a knock on anyone that has been in the band before, it’s just a different dynamic, and that change is invigorating. Since the band hasn't ever compromised our musical style, we've sought out other kinds of changes that keep things from stagnating, and right now this dynamic is working really well. Down the road? Who knows... Right now the new record is the only thing on our collective horizon. Of course, the individual songs end up a bit less collaborative (Col and I would re-arrange 99% of everything from my original ideas of songs, and Mike‘s tunes for that matter) but the album as a whole actually becomes more collaborative, with Wes contributing almost 50% of the songs, and everyone free to develop their parts on their own before bringing it all together.

Well, for not having much to update, I’ve been typing quite a bit. So I’ll leave it at that and then once we actually rehearse (in the good ol‘ fashioned sense of the term), I’ll post some more shit, as well as some current pics and other crap.

'til next time,

Harvey and the usual gang of idiots

Monday, August 23, 2010

New interview on Metal Maniacs site

Check it out!

Normally, I would post an "unabridged" version here, but the whole enchilada is up at the Metal Maniacs site. Mike said he wanted to talk to me about "all things" Exhumed, and he wasn't kidding. It's a bit lengthy and very in-depth, so there's your warning. Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blast Beats From The Past

Our original guitarist, Derrel Houdashelt (aka D. Attacker of Dekapitator fame) has been posting a few pics on Faceback that take me way, way back and I thought I'd share 'em here for your viewing pleasure along with a little context on these gems.

This one on the right here is the Marquee for our first show ever, way back in October 24th, 1991 - to put it in perspective, this was five days after my sixteenth birthday on a Thursday night at the legendary San Francisco Rock club The Stone (R.I.P.), as made famous in the Cliff 'Em All video and some really cool black and white footage of Kiss in the 70s. Anyway, there were about 5 people in the audience that night, including Col's parents, Max Ward of Plutocracy / Spazz / Capitalist Casualties fame, Rich, guitarist of Immortal Fate, and Mark Smith, who later did vocals for Exhumed on the "Cadaveric Splatter Platter" tape(s) and was in a Gilroy-based band called Burial with some guy named Mike Beams on guitar, who ended up fitting into this story a few years later. Needless to say, fame and fortune did not come a knockin' after this inauspicious beginning. We had completed our rehearsal tape about a month before and this night was our indoctrination into the infamous "pay to play" business practiced by The Stone and its sister clubs in the East Bay (the Omni) and the South Bay (One Step Beyond) where we would spend the next two years slugging it out in various support capacities to many of our favorite bands like Morbid Angel, Master, Cannibal Corpse, Entombed, Autopsy, Sadus and many, many others.
Here's the August 1992 calendar for The Stone, the month we played with Morbid Angel and Master for the first time of many. As you can see our fortunes by then had improved considerably, as 4th-rate thrash bands like Skeletal Bliss were nowhere in sight on those bills. Armed with extremely limited musical ability and an overload of enthusiasm, we grinded our way through those first few years penning ditties like "Oozing Rectal Feast", "Ziploc Body-Bag" (a title suggested to us by some dude in line outside the Omni in 1991 whose name has long since escaped me), and "Festering Sphinctral Malignancy", and playing incredibly sloppy grinding Death Metal while having the time of our lives. While other kids in high school were undoubtedly enjoying milestones like their first prom night, we were hanging out backstage and learning about the underground from guys like Chris Riefert and Alex Webster. I think we definitely came out ahead there. I may have been a loser with the girls at school, but knowing that I was going to be opening for Entombed or whoever it happened to be that month in a few weeks made all the boredom and stupidity of high school completely bearable - that and the fact that I pretty much slept through most of it anyway.

Here's a pic from our first band photo shoot - from left to right- Derrel Houdashelt, guitar, Col Jones (seated), drums, Jake Giardina, vocals, and yours truly, guitar and backing vocals. Derrel and Jake were a little older than Col and I (I was defintiely 15 here, Col may have been 16, Jake was 16 or 17, and Derrel was 17) and at least had the good sense to wear pants. As you can see, Exhumed has always been the paragon of orignality, doing a photo shoot in graveyard was of course as cliche as a Death Metal band could possibly get. Apparently no one told me not to wear athletic shorts that don't even go to your knees in your heavy metal band photo. But we were Californians, and wearing shorts every day was pretty much the norm. I don't remember who took this photo, it may have been Stephanie Dean, a girl I had a gigantic crush on in high school, who is actually now an accomplished photographer, but I don't know for sure. At any rate, only Col stuck with the tradition of putting all of one's hair in front of one's face all the way though to his recent days in Cretin. Always, the purist, that guy.

Here's a shot of Jake (foreground) and Derrel (background) at the Omni in Oakland with Kindred of Plutocracy in the background in full SF Giants regalia. The Omni was always our favorite place to play back in those days, huge stage, relatively good sound, and always the best turnouts for Death Metal shows there. Plus the owner used to give us all the free soda we wanted. We were real party animals in those days. Jake is seen here sporting some sweet skull jam shorts sewn by Col's mom. For some reason we took it upon ourselves to wear ridiculous bermuda shorts with even more ridiculous patterns on them onstage. Everything from the relatively "cool" skull pattern seen here to crayons, dinosaurs, fish, and anything totally stupid you could think of. There was one particularly cringe-worthy occasion in 1992 at One Step Beyond with Phobia, Plutocracy, and Morgion where Derrel played in an "Ernie" shirt (as in Seasme Street) and Jake was wearing fuzzy bunny slippers. Col's mother Mary, truly one of the most wonderful people I've ever known, was sweet enough to sew our shorts for us. And yes, we picked out the patterns at the fabric store, not her, so don't blame a sweet woman for five teenage idiots wearing dino shorts. I usually stuck with my plaid or checkered Mervyn's-bought "surf" shorts, but I
rocked the skull jams a few times myself.
To the left here is yours truly with my good friend Kris Berlin's Gibson Explorer (I seemed to always be borrowing someone else's guitar in those early days) - he played in one of our favorite local bands back then, Enucleation (guess where we got the song title for that song on "Gore Metal" from? - I told you earlier we were incredibly original) and for some reason, I thought a good fashion statement would be putting a Napalm Death sticker (not patch, sticker) on my shorts for this show. Unfortunately, our hilariously amateurish banner can't bee seen in this shot. Maybe when I get all my stuff out of storage and a scanner, it'll make an appearance. Anyway, had a few minutes to kill and those pics got me a bit nostalgic. Next update will be current and informative- and will be 99% dinosaur-shorts free.
- Harvey

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Exhuming Exhumed... Part 1

I figured since we have this blogsite up, I'd use it to update anyone interested (or bored at work) in the process of getting the new record together. Obviously this will be an ongoing process, so updates will come sporadically as shit gets done. So, read on and thrill to the titanic adventures of four idiots on a never-ending quest to make a new record.


Part the firste:

Well, I was in Southern California the past few days (August 5-10) for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to get my proverbial hands dirty in the preparation process for recording album #4. Arriving late Thursday night for a rehearsal with
Gravehill, plans are made to rendezvous with the inimitable Wes Caley (guitar) the following day. After dicking around with a few things, getting beer, Wes fixing my guitar (thanks dude!), etc. we set up in Wes’ recording room in Westminster (Orange County). Mr. Caley and I have been writing furiously for months now, coming up with over 20 songs, and 16 strong contenders for the album, that we have decided to focus in on. Due to the wonders of the information age, we’re able to email each other our respective demo tracks (his are infinitely better recorded than mine) and tablature to boot. However, there’s no substitute for sitting down face to face and playing together. So, in short order riffs are exchanged and taught, arrangements are discussed and tweaked, song titles and lyrics are beginning to be remembered by yours truly and associated with the respective songs they belong to, and things really feel like they are coming together at last. Since this is the first time that we’ve actually got together in the same room, it really drives it home that this album is really happening and all the shit we’ve been planning and talking about is now becoming actual events, not just email threads and phone conversations. It’s a really energizing feeling after months of talking about it from thousands of miles away (I was living in Hawaii for the first six months of this year).

After spending about four or five hours working through some tracks thoroughly, it’s off to the
Makh Daniels benefit show that Gravehill is playing in Whittier - which also served as a birthday party for an old friend and true sister of metal, Lili! Beers are drained, tacos are contemplated but ultimately passed over in favor of more beer, and a good time was had by all- hopefully Mr. Daniels would have approved. Saturday was basically void of productivity - being hungover and watching cheesy comedy takes up most of my time and energy before Gravehill rehearsal.

Sunday, Wes and I meet up with the third member of our cast of characters, everybody’s favorite full-time asshole, Leon del Muerte (bass, vocals,
Murder Construct, DIS, ex-Impaled, Intronaut, Phobia, etc. etc.). We get to Echo Park for the “Power of the Riff” fest around 5:30, unfortunately missing Nails and Black Breath, but well in time for From Ashes Rise and my old pals in Repulsion. Col (Jones, drums, Repulsion, Cretin, Dekapitator, ex-Exhumed) shares some pizza with Wes and I, as well as encouragement and feedback about the upcoming record (which he‘s already heard most of the demo tracks for), and not too long after that Leon and I somehow end up at a strange bar in Chinatown drinking Maker's Mark with a couple of attractive women. Then it's back to Echo Park to reunite with Wes and his lady, with several tacos in tow. More beers inevitably follow. With a work ethic like this, I’m shocked that it takes us years between albums. Very productive day indeed.

The next day, Wes and I leave Leon in Echo Park to spend the remainder of his day in bed trying not to vomit (having already called out of work the previous evening in a rare exercise of good judgment) and head to the Gravehill rehearsal space to crank up and go over more songs. Despite hangovers, we end up getting a lot done today. The only speed-bump in the road is that our fourth member, absentee drummer Danny (Walker, of
Intronaut, Murder Construct, ex-Phobia, Uphill Battle, etc. etc.) has a scheduling conflict for the dates we’ve just booked to track his drums. Since he’s currently on the road with Intronaut (supporting Cynic), communication hasn’t been as good as it should be, and the fact that I have a new phone and number and I a) forgot to give him my new number, and b) forgot to program his number into my new phone, well, that hasn’t helped much either.

In short order, the dates are pushed back, which is a great relief as the rest of the recording is already booked in Phoenix Arizona with an old, and truly good friend of mine Ryan Butler at his Arcane Digital Recording studio. Our flights and hotel down there are already booked and paid for by our friends at Relapse, so it’s nice that the schedule change won’t effect anything else going forward. Now we just have one less week to prepare (after already pushing the recording up a week).

Wes is kind enough to stick around during Gravehill practice so we can re-up on the venom (get more beer) and head back to Westminster to drink ourselves into a stupor and get ready to practice yet again on Tuesday. After some discussion it’s decided that Wes will undertake the time-intensive task of recording a whole new set of pre-production demos with the new arrangement changes we’ve made so that Danny has the most complete set of tracks to learn the songs from before we rehearse. As much as this will streamline the rehearsal process, I have to admit that it makes me miss the good old days, when I’d just get off the school bus, walk over to Col’s house and then we’d walk to my folk’s garage and just try out riffs for a couple of hours before dinner. I especially miss the crappy little boom box we had in said garage to record our tuneless racket, but I digress. After going through the first seven songs with a fine-toothed comb for the past few days, we decide to get some work done on yet another new tune, which will be the first directly co-written tune we’ve whipped up. Hopefully we’ll finish this one in time for the record as well. By then, it’s high time to call it a day so I can meet up with the Gravehill guys one last time before I head back north to the Central California coast where I can return to the relative calm, cool weather and fog around 2am.

Stay tuned to this broadcast in the coming weeks for the next exciting chapter in the continuing adventures of the usual gang of idiots in Exhumed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Terrorizer interview - unabridged

Here's a transcript of the entire conversation I recently had with Terrorizer's James Hoare. Enjoy...

1) What prompted you to get back to work on Exhumed?

There were a lot of different factors, to be honest. I think when the band went into hibernation in '05, I was really wanting to play a different style of music and just was burnt on the whole death metal scene, not to mention the grind of touring, the frustration of constant lineup changes, and the stagnation of the band's growth. But after a while away, my perspective on the band, the scene and everything has really changed so I think things are coming from a much better place. I recently found an old CD from '05 with ideas for what would have been the next Exhumed record, and I know that stopping at that point was absolutely the right decision. Now I feel excited about things again, I think getting away from the "scene" has allowed me to refocus on what I love about this kind of music and to really feel it again. And it feels fucking awesome... I didn't realize how much I missed blasting and all those sliding Terrorizer-style riffs, haha! I'm also stoked that the scene has kind of made a bit of room for bands that play the older style of Death Metal again, because I feel like Exhumed has a lot more commonality with Autopsy than with Annotations of Autopsy, so it's killer that there's bands doing the older style again - as well as bands that continue to push the boundaries and progress the genre as well. And even the weird kid bands with too many words in their names seem like the more they progress, the more Death Metal they're getting, so I think that the whole zeitgeist of things is moving in the right direction. The Death Metal scene now is a much healthier place for us to be than it was in '05.

2) How did you settle on this line-up?

When we started talking about doing a new record and playing again, I had been living in
Hawaii for about a year, and was starting to see that I would be ready to move back to California pretty soon and started contacting a lot of old friends, and a lot of my friends are old bandmates, especially considering how many lineup changes we've had, and Wes (Caley, guitarist) and I started talking about jamming since I was planning on moving quite a bit closer to Southern California that I had been living previously. From there it quickly turned to talking about Exhumed. Wes actually dropped Leon (DelMuerte, bass / vocals) and Danny (Walker, drums) a line and they were on board in about 15 mintues. It was the easiest Exhumed lineup assembly of all time. Everyone was stoked and on the same pages and it just seemed to fall into place.
I really wanted to pick things up where the band had left off, rather than doing a "reunion" thing and focusing on what had already happened. I think if I was working with the "classic" line-up we'd be pretty limited as far as pursuing touring opportunities and really doing this full-on, the way that it has to be. I've been waiting like 5+ years to make a new record with Wes and Danny involved so that really got me fired up. And Leon is a great riff-writer and probably the best guy to have on tour with you ever, from a lot of perspectives. He keeps the rude alcoholic vibe that we all enjoy revelling in going strong, haha!

3) What can you tell us about the new songs? How did the writing work?

I think that the new songs combine the kind of sophistication of some of the bits on the "Anatomy..." record with the more straightforward arrangements and sensibility of "Slaughtercult". The songs are shorter and way more focused than on "Anatomy", I was really frustrated after "Anatomy...", I felt like those songs were kind of dicking around too much - the new stuff goes straight for the throat. It's really fast and aggressive, with bits of melody and dual guitar work, and I think it fully sounds like Exhumed. The writing has been way different than in the past - I've been writing w/a drum machine in Hawaii, and Wes has been doing his demos in California, then we all listen and compare notes on what works, what doesn't etc. But the writing has actually been really collaborative, with both Wes and I coming up with a ton of material, then working together with the other guys to cherry-pick the best of it to make the strongest record possible. I think we both kind of push each other to write more and better stuff - I'd hear one of his tracks and get blown away, so I'd have to get back to the drawing board and come up with something even heavier, so there's a bit of inspiration / healthy competition in the dynamic that's been really exciting. I also recently got to demo all the songs for Col (Jones, ex-Exhumed drummer, currently drums in Cretin, Repulsion, Dekapitator) and the rest of Cretin to get their feedback, which was really positive. They're some of my oldest friends and would definitely give it to me straight if the material wasn't up to snuff. We'll be getting together before recording this fall to rehearse and put all the pieces together.

4) What're your plans for the release? Anything you can tell us about the art?

Well, it should be out in Spring '11, then we'll doing a lot of shows, focusing on festivals and one-offs to start with through the summer. So far Maryland Deathfest 2011 is the first thing we have confirmed. Then we'll be looking at any more extended touring for the fall and winter if things go well and we get offers that make sense for us. The initial shows and the festivals will be shows where we'll focus more on the older stuff for sure, I hate going to see a band play after just getting back together and hearing a shitload of songs I've never heard before, so those will be more "reunion"-ish, and then if we end up hitting the road after that it'll be more like a normal tour where the newer stuff gets a bit more airtime. The art is still in the works at this point, but it will be disgusting, if that's what you're wondering, haha!

5) How conscious are you of new fans discovering Exhumed in the last couple of years?

Not really conscious at all, actually. I have been so out of Death Metal since '05. Playing thrash in Dekapitator and Scarecrow, and doing the occasional Repulsion show is not much of a way to keep your finger on the pulse of the scene. It's usually just a bunch of geezers drinking and talking about tape trading, haha! A good friend of mine out in Hawaii played me the Job For A Cowboy cover of "Matter Of Splatter", which was kind of flattering and weird, but I don't really know if new kids are getting turned on to the band, to be honest. If they are that's great, if not, that's okay too - I do know that everyone involved with the band throughout the years has been asked many, many times at shows, online, wherever, when / if the band's coming back, so it's nice that folks haven't forgotten about it. But ultimately, I've always done / not done Exhumed because it's what I wanted to do, and if other people are on board, then that's awesome - if not, that's cool too, we've never been "popular" or particularly "cool" and that's never been what Exhumed has been about. To quote that old Roadrunner ad back when they used to actually put out cool records - :"Some music was meant to stay underground", dude.

Terrorizer Magazine interview

There's an interview with Terrorizer magazine about the re-animation of the band that you can check out here:
Not sure when the mag hits the stands, but it will also be in the print version. After I get back from the Gravehill tour, which has been really fucking awesome, I'll post an unabridged version.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

EXHUMED return From The Grave

Gore-metal originators EXHUMED have reformed after a five–year hiatus. EXHUMED 2010 will feature founding and original member Matt Harvey on guitars and vocals along with returning members Leon DelMuerte (PHOBIA, MUDER CONSTRUCT) on bass and vocals, Wes Caley (UPHILL BATTLE) on guitars, and Danny Walker (INTRONAUT, MUDER CONSTRUCT, UPHILL BATTLE) on drums. The band will begin recording a new full-length and follow-up album to 2003’s Anatomy Is Destiny this fall for a spring 2011 release.

Harvey recently commented on the reformation; ""I'm totally fucken psyched to be making music with Exhumed again, it's been way too long. After a few years off and away from the Death Metal scene, I feel rejuvenated and ready to hack, maim and kill once again. I wanted this to be a continuation of what the band was doing and was on its way to doing, not a reunion or some weird nostalgia thing, so the first person I started talking about this with was our guitarist Wes (Caley), who has been writing some great songs for the new album, and once he got the ball rolling with Leon (DelMuerte, bass, vocals) and Danny (Walker, drums), it come together quickly and easier than ever!”

“We've been writing for the past few months, me in Hawaii , and the other guys in California , and now that I'm back on the mainland we'll be getting things together for album number four. We're all really excited about the new shit, it should combine the directness of "Slaughtercult" and the intricacy of "Anatomy..." so it's definitely gonna be our strongest record yet.”

EXHUMED has confirmed that their first North American appearance will be as part of Maryland Deathfest 2011. To commemorate the band’s return to the stage, they are asking for fans to pick their set list. Suggestions are being welcomed on the band’s MySpace, Facebook page, and new blog: