Blue Sabbath Black Cheer Interview

It's not like the Pacific Northwest could get any more gray...but over the last few years,Blue Sabbath Black Cheer have spread their own clouds of darkness over the entire area,with a multitude of releases on their own Gnarled Forest label,and a sound that can best be described with one word:unsettling.

I was lucky enough to chat with BSBC members wm. Rage and Stan Reed to talk about the history of the band,the Northwest musical scene,and that "other" Blue Sabbath.

Hammer Smashed Jazz:Ok,the band name.Besides an obvious mix of two band names,I'm smelling some Gravitar in there.You guys have a connection with them,yes?

wm: Yeah, our name is inspired by the Gravitar song: Blue Sabbath – originally on the “History of …” cassette. I’ve been friends with the Gravitar dudes since 1995 when my pal Mason Jones turned me on to them – he had just released their first CD: Chinga Su Corazon. My band at the time, Tekachi, did a west coast tour with them in the late summer of ‘95 and we’ve been great friends ever since – I even released a CD and a bunch of CDrs of theirs on my now defunct label: Enterruption. I also flew them out from Michigan once to play a show in SF in 2002.

Geoff Walker, Gravitar’s singer, lives a couple hours down the road from us and it’s been more than our pleasure to have him collaborate with us both live and on more than a few recordings, which reminds me it’s about time to have him come back up for some serious jamming again. He’s a great guy.

HSJ:Were you aware that there was another Blue Sabbath (Black Fiji) out there?Ever look em up or listen to em?

wm: supposedly they named themselves after us….. whatever. They’re French and I think they live in Scotland and, from what I know of them, they’re all about rainbows and flowers and washing themselves in unicorn tears.

SR: I was pointed in their direction by someone shortly after we got started. I contacted them and asked simply, where did the inspiration for your name come from? I was answered by a short email that read simply, “You guys, Cheers!”. That’s the only communication we have ever had with them. I’ve checked out a few things by them, not really my thing so much.

HSJ:So lets get to the impetus for creating BSBC.A million people are doing noise these days.What ideas/concepts did you guys have that made you think you had something different or special to offer?

wm: it was never about having anything special to offer or not. I started the band with another dude back in the late fall/early winter of 2005. But to be honest it never really came together between me and him until Stan joined the band and first dude left. In fact, the very first practice where dude didn’t show up and it was just me and Stan is where BSBC really clicked. We jammed a song that was super harsh and violent and afterwards we both looked at each other and knew that that was it, exactly what we were looking for. We’ve been doing that since.

As far as a concept goes: from the beginning of BSBC it was about combining the influences of G.I.S.M., The New Blockaders, Crash Worship ADRV, and Moevot into one ugly black acid bog crawl death hate vibe. We all die, no-one escapes. We like to remind people of that.

SR: We’ve never felt like we had to offer anything special…to anyone. We never set out to do anything but make sounds that we ourselves like. We have no disillusions about the noise/music/experimental world. Both of us have been into it for a long time, as listeners, collectors and producers. We are just a couple of jaded old farts who could give 2 shits about what other people think, not a couple of kids thinking they can change the world with noise and make a buck doing it. We are quite happy with it being our hobby, our own kinda release…for ourselves. If others get a kick off it too, more power to them.

HSJ:On that some note,there are so many noise/drone projects out there.The scene is really thriving.Does that make it easier to get noticed,or is it harder to stand out?

wm: That’s not really a concern of mine. We do what we do cuz we want/have to, regardless if anyone was/is paying attention to us or not.

SR: Agreed. Interestingly enough though, we have always associated ourselves with noise more so than anything else. It was kinda bewildering to us when our releases actually started selling due to the fact that they were not going to the noise world so much as the metal and doom realms.

HSJ:When it comes time to record,do you guys have preconceived ideas about what you want it to sound like?Do you rehearse any of it,or is it all improv?

wm: Yes, we want it to sound like a body being dragged through a bloody bog down into the very depths of hell. Stan and I rehearse together a lot. When we’re at our most active we usually rehearse 4-5x a week for a couple to few hours a night.

There is a lot of improv in what we do but we’ve been playing together so much for quite awhile now that we’re able to read each other’s movements and sounds, working off what the other is doing or going to do. There’s only four recordings that I can think of off the top of my head that are “raw” recordings: Borre Fen live, Black Acid live, Victim live, and the a-side of the Eva 7”, also live. Everything else is mixed and fukked with obsessively.

HSJ:What the hell is it about the northwest that makes so much shit happen up there?There seems to be an amazing amount of noise,drone,black metal,doom and psyche going on right now.Also,is there any cross-pollination between all of it,or are the scenes segregated?

wm: Cold, dark winters, lots of rain and grey cloudy skies. You end up staying inside a lot. For the most part, I would say that it’s heavily segregated, tho the noise “scene” people are the ones who tend to check out all other types of music. The metallers and punks tend to stay mostly within their scenes. There are a few exceptions to this tho (ahem, Iron Lung Rules!).

SR: Don’t know, don’t care, my opinion would just be a vast overgeneralization. All I know is that the PACNW is my favorite place in the US regardless of weather, politics or scenes. Seems it’s a place where people can be themselves and do their own things quite easily, but yes, it is, as it is anywhere, quite segregated for the most part. There is some cross-pollination, but it is mostly centered in groups formed by people who are interested in both/all and try to blend them into different projects that they themselves do.

Overall, live shows here seem to be more of an “experimental” nature…which covers noise, drone, psych and more extreme forms of metal, punk and doom. So when you go to a show, you can expect to see a bit of a few forms of sound, which is refreshing, but to me not cross-pollination.

HSJ:Shows...many say that it's the only way to truly appreciate any band,especially "noise" artists.Have you guys played many shows,and have there been any distinct highlights (or lowlights) you remember?

wm: Noise can be at it’s best when presented properly live: basement shows and dark warehouses being the best, of course. I think we’ve played around 40+ shows since we started. My personal highlights are the shows we’ve played in BC, Canada. The Victoria and Vancouver noise scenes are head and shoulders above the rest. Quality people and Quality noise.

My personal faves (musically and as people) are Griefer, The Rita, Taskmaster, Rusalka, Sick Buildings, Coastal, Flatgrey and Brutophilia. We’ve played with all them a number of times and every time has kicked ass!! My other personal highlight is when Stan and Cory Brutophilia collided heads and Cory needed to get 5 stitches above his left eye! Blood everywhere!

SR: Highlights: A string of shows we did in the fall/winter of 2006 in Seattle. September at the Baltic Room was our first show as a duo, our 3rd leg had quit the band 4 hours before the show leaving wm and I to handle all we had been rehearsing on our own, a live shot at Borre Fen, one of our first great performances in my opinion. October at the Funhouse was a wildcard improv for the most part and ended up being our best live set ever in my opinion. Then Wm’s guitar and my bass breaking right as we came on stage at the Rebar in December, leaving us with only our tapes and vocals to work with, and pulling a quite satisfying horror soundtrack. All 3 of these performances have been released on cassettes in our past, and right now they are all being reissued to vinyl by Troubleman Unlimited.

HSJ:There are only two permanent members of BSBC, correct? Tell us about some of your conspirators who aid the full-on BSBC attack. There also seems to be a strong connection with Endless Blockade. How'd that one come to be?

wm: yeah, just a two-piece: for the most part. The majority of 2008 tho we were a 5-piece live: me and Stan, Crystal Perez (bass, vocals) and John Lukeman (tapes, synths), and my wife Leslie doing our live mixing and operating tapes.

Other folks: the main collaborators: the aforementioned Geoff Walker: he used to play in Gravitar and sometimes does a cool thing called Magnetic Lucifer. He was also in Basketcase with John Olson of the Wolf Eyes. Now he plays in Spider Tombs with a hilarious and crazed mountain man: I’mLooLoo. Jon Kortland is another good friend of mine, known him for many years now. He plays in Iron Lung and is the main man behind the awesome Pig Heart Transplant. Richard Rupenus is best known for being the X-faced man behind the The New Blockaders. Stan and him have been friends for a while now. Richard is a mysterious fellow and he provides us with source material that gets buried into BSBC sickness. Matt Waldron is the genius behind the surrealist group irr. app. (ext.) and he plays in Nurse With Wound as well. He’s a funny guy and an amazing artist, sonic and drawing-style. Chris Dodge ran the amazing Slap A Ham Records label and he used to play in power-violence legends Spazz. Now he plays noise in Bacteria Cult and wields a mighty bass for two of my favorite power-violence bands of all time: Despise You and Lack of Interest.

Our friend Sean Dow never gets any credit but he’s one of our biggest heroes, even if he is a bit of a happy stoned hippy. He did all the driving for us on our west coast tour last year and keeps fixing Stan’s bass that Stan keeps breaking. Another main collaborator of ours that doesn’t get enough credit is marijuana. Go Team Green!

A strong connection to the Endless Blockade…..? I have some of their records and I like them quite a bit but we have a much stronger connection to Iron Lung more than anyone else. They’re probably the only hardcore/power-violence band that asks us to play with them with any regularity. If y’r referring to our “Endless Blockade” LP, that’s actually a case of it being direct tribute to G.I.S.M. and The New Blockaders: which I believe is the inspiration behind their name as well. Go Figure.

HSJ:Favorite Black Sabbath song?

wm. “Hole In The Sky”: first song on Sabotage: also my favorite Sabbath record. “What are you? Chicken?!!”

SR: Can’t name just one. The Writ, Hole In The Sky, Symptom Of The Universe, A National Acrobat, Into The Void…but yeah Sabotage is probably my favorite LP.

HSJ:Your releases are usually self-released in low print-runs,and sell out fast.It must be nice to run your own label,and therefore,get instant feedback from your true fans.Must also be difficult to handle both ends of things like that,I'd imagine.

wm: I don’t look at it that way. Both Stan and I ran labels for years and thusly know the ins-and-outs of doing so. When it came time to start putting out BSBC material it really was a matter of quality control and of maintaining control of our material.

SR: It is very nice to run our own label, we enjoy it greatly. It gives us the means to do what we do, when we want to and how we want to, without relying on someone else. It’s a hobby, not a business, and that makes it all the more enjoyable.

HSJ:I have to admit that I prefer your sound on tape,as it just seems that much more twisted and dark...and of course vinyl has it's own advantages as I guess CDs are a lost cause nowadays?If kids want it digital,they just download it,right?

wm: IMO, cassettes are the perfect format for noise, seconded by vinyl. CDs are too easy to make and they’re really not that superior to vinyl, again IMO. Putting together an LP takes finesse and is hard work: lots of coordinating between different plants, so many things can go wrong. I have way more respect for someone releasing a record than a CD, by far.

SR: I like vinyl over cassettes, but cassettes definitely over CDs and CDrs. People who only listen to CDs and MP3s are people who have no audio fetishes in my opinion. And it is all a matter of opinion. CDs aren’t a complete waste due to the fact that there are so many people out there that only listen to them. We have done 1 CD now on Release The Bats with another in the works on Static Caravan/Very Friendly, but they are just reissuing the older out of print vinyl and cassette material for the folks who don’t dig wax and tape. We won’t release new full length CDs ever I don’t think. As for downloading, I am an avid fan, I encourage it, and I feed the fire.

HSJ:So,what's going on with BSBC the rest of 09?I would imagine there'a shit-ton of stuff coming out.

wm: the only solid plans are that we’re taking most of the year off from playing live and concentrating more on recording and releasing a bunch of long planned material. We have been talking with Matt Waldron of irr. app. (ext.) about the possibility of a small west coast tour, BSBC & i.a.(e.) but that’s not set in stone. I’m going to be going to school for Phlebotomy soon and thus my job situation is going to change by summer’s end so it might not be possible to tour in the early Fall as we are talking about. We’ll see.

SR: In the works right now and for the rest of the year are: Dead Death, Death Dead LP from Troubleman Unlimited, a collab LP with The New Blockaders on Ecstatic Peace, a new LP on Doom Mantra that will include reissue and new material, a new c30 and lathe cut on AA Records, a split 7” with Altar of Flies on Daisy Cutter Records, and a split c24 with Dead Machines, a split 10” with Dried Up Corpse, a collab LP with, a 1 sided 12” of a live show we did on Halloween 2008, and a collab LP with The Nihilist Assault Group on our own Gnarled Forest. Yeah…a lot of stuff…

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