Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Interview Karma To Burn Talks Stoner Rock, Numbers, and Malt Liquor

2/11/15 Setlist
When Karma To Burn came into St. Louis on February 11th towards the very end of their tour, they took out some time to speak to me.

Years on, they're still touring, churning out albums, and hailing the almighty riff.

Glacially Musical: Let's start off with the simple things. What are your influences?

Will, Guitar: I don't know. As a kid I started off with classic rock and heavy metal. Around 12 or 13 I moved onto a lot of punk rock and hardcore.

As a real little kid, I listened to real rock'n'roll: Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Started to get heavier, Zeppelin, Hendrix, moved onto AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Iron Maiden. Moved onto Black Flag, Sex Pistols, and Dead Kennedy. Then we came up with this crapola.

Evan, Drums: I grew up around a lot of music. My parents always went to shows. There was a good music community in the town where I grew up and I always gravitated towards the drums. I was always listening to classic rock, just the heavy stuff. It was obvious to me that when I was young, I was just digging rock'n'roll.

Sort of the same story as Will. Classic Rock and heavier stuff. Going from there, I had my ups and downs, especially my teens. There was some stuff in there I definitely wish I wouldn't have listened to, but I came out of that all right.

Eric, Bass: Yeah, very similar. Started off with 70's rock and coming back to it, a lot of Black Sabbath and stuff like that. Geezer Butler is a huge influence. I don't have much to add, real similar stuff.

GM: You're not like the normal instrumental band, think Steve Vai or Satriani...

Will: What I'm not up to that par? (all laughing)

Eric, Will, and Evan of Karma To Burn
GM: Few of us are. It's not about the shredding or a solo...

Will: No, it's just about writing songs. It's about the riff. You have to take people on a roller coaster ride. There has to be dynamics.  If you're not going to be playing solos and things like that, you gotta take it up and down.

The best thing is you write these songs and everybody has their own connotation of what it means to them. You can listen to these songs and have it in your head. Whatever you want. I have what's in my head but that doesn't mean that somebody else can listen to it and have a completely different way they feel about the song.

If you're just up there shredding it's just...wow I can't believe he did that.

Evan: How do you connect with that other than on the technical level?

Will: Just write the best songs you can and let it go and I don't know, cast it out and see who bites.

GM: What made you decide to do instrumental?

Will: Oh, probably pure laziness. (laughs) When we first started this band, I had a couple other members, but we started the band up and we had like a really small set and a friend of ours was having a backyard bbq and he said you should play my party.

We were like, we don't have a singer yet, and he didn't care and said just get up there and do what you're doing at your practice place. So we did that and turns out there was  lot of people at this party. We had so many people come up after and say that we didn't need a singer.

So that sparked the we don't need a singer!

It's not for lack of trying. We have tried out vocalists and nothing has ever really fit the bill. Nothing has melted in together. Just didn't happen. We tried a few different guys, no girls, but a few different guys.

Eric: Not yet!

Will: It just kind of happened. Kind of like an unwanted pregnancy.

GM: I noticed the song titles are just numbers...

Will: The number game is that there is no game. The song numbers are just chronological order. There's no illuminati stuff behind that. Song 1 is the first song we wrote. 42 is the 42nd song we wrote.

GM: I remember seeing Andy McKee 8 or 9 years ago and each song he would tell this story about what this song was about..

Will: Out of all the years I've been playing these songs, I have never, ever gotten on the mic and said this song is about anything.

It's not.

Evan: It might have meaning, but it's not about anything.

Will: Whatever you want it to be about, that's what it's about.

GM: What's the songwriting process?

Evan: We had some interesting ones on the last album.

Will: I personally write Santa Claus every year and I have the elves ship me in some tunes. (laughs) I dunno. Take this one.

Evan: It's pretty typical. Will will just come in with a riff. We'll just mess around and jam around and usually just guitar and drums and something will just stick out. Usually we'll have a digital recorder going during our practices.

We'll go back and follow a riff wherever it takes us. Sometimes it's even easier. Will will have a riff and the songs just write themselves.

GM: So Will's the leader?

(all laughing)

Evan: Yeah, that's safe to say...

Will: (ominously) It all started with me and it's going to end with me!

GM: I wanted ask you about the label Stoner Rock or Stoner Metal...

Will: Oh god. Stoner Rock...I guess if you had to be in a genre...it's definitely had its fringe benefits over the years. It's not a horrible label. It's not something that was ever intended.

When we started the band, I didn't smoke pot. Not at all.

Evan: I didn't know that!

Will: I don't even know what stoner rock is. Kyuss and Fu Man Chu. That's definitely stoner rock..I guess.

Evan: No it's desert rock.

Will: It's turned into desert rock.

GM: That's one I haven't heard.

Will: You haven't heard desert rock yet? We have actually grown into the category of desert rock and we don't even live near the desert.

Everybody likes to put things in categories and I can think of far worse things, like pop country.

GM: What do you bring with you to stay sane on the road?

Will: Beer. Lots of beer. That's it. That's my only answer.

Evan: I try to stay busy on my phone to be honest. Listening to music and watching movies. Doing what I call homework?

GM: What's the last thing you listened to in the van?

Evan: Today we were listening to Sleep..

Will: And I was trying to sleep.

Evan: Honestly, I'm going back and listening to what I used to listen to: Hendrix, Sabbath. I can never get enough of either.

GM: What kind of effects are you using?

Will: (wiggles fingers) It's called these. I just plug straight into the head. I don't like any pedals. Don't like any disruptions.

I have a hard enough time as it is. (laughs)

Evan: He was the first guitar player I ever played with who didn't use a pedal.

GM: How do you describe what you do?

Will: Hobo Rock.

Eric: It's a new genre!

Evan: Malt Liquor rock.

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