Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hometown Tales with Unholy Baptism

Unholy Baptism
It's time to check back in with Unholy Baptism.

They're riding high on having released Volume I:The Bonds of Servitude and they did their own damned selves.

If you want to make music, that's about the best way to get it done your way.

The pair live in the State of Arizona and apart from things like the Coyotes, Suns, and the Arizona (FKA Phoenix, earlier St. Louis Cardinals, nee: Chicago Cardinals), there's very little going on in that state I can tell you anything about.

So let's get it from the horse's unholy mouth, Mantus of Unholy Baptism.

GM: St. Louis City is my hometown. I've lived here for most of my life in and around the city. Where are you from?

Mantus: I wasn’t born in Flagstaff, but I lived there from when I was about two or so until very recently. I went to school there, did college there and was a part of the local music scene from when I was about fifteen on.

There’s something to be said about growing up in a small mountain town a few hours from a major metropolitan area, but in retrospect I also wish I was afforded the opportunities one might find in a big city like Phoenix.

GM: We have three things that don't really exist anywhere else: the slinger, the gooey butter cake, and toasted ravioli. Tell me about your hometown delicacy.

Mantus: I don’t know that Flagstaff, Arizona is really known for a delicacy necessarily. It hasn’t been a hugely populated area until recently.

What I will say is Mexican food in Arizona in general is amazing. I have been to many areas in the Southwest United States and I think only California has comparable Mexican food to Arizona.

GM: In St. Louis, though there have been others. Our biggest hometown team is the St. Louis Cardinals (formerly the St. Louis Perfectos, nee: the St. Louis Browns, not the AL team that moved to Baltimore.) There is nowhere you can go to escape it. I'm a hockey fan, not a baseball fan, so it's a bit weird to me. Tell me about your hometown's big team.

Mantus: Full disclosure, I am not a big sports fan, but I know in Arizona we have well known teams in every major sport.

Of course, all of the sports teams are based in Phoenix, but the Arizona Cardinals (football) do train in Flagstaff every year before the season starts. We are at a much higher elevation than Phoenix is, which can be a bit of a problem for people that aren’t used to it, but my understanding is the air is thinner at that high of an altitude which can be very helpful for pre-season training.

Outside of football, the Phoenix Coyotes (hockey) are based here and the Arizona Diamondbacks (baseball), but I’m even less familiar with those sports than football.

GM: St. Louis isn't really known for any one type of music scene. The biggest acts I can think of to get out of here alive were Gravity Kills, Nelly and the St. Lunatics, and Sheryl Crow. There's always been a vibrant concert scene though. What about where you are?

Mantus: Flagstaff actually has a very healthy bluegrass scene, which I’m always pretty surprised about. There’s a pretty sizable festival every year that takes place downtown.

Outside of that though, there is not much in terms of music in general. When I initially joined the scene, there were a couple of metal bands that would make their way around the two or three venues to play periodically, including the band I was in at the time.

There were a few punk rock acts as well, but these bands get driven out pretty quickly due to low turnout numbers or the extremely high cost of playing at a venue.

It’s always surprising to me that there is a significant college population in Flagstaff – in fact, estimates are now suggesting two-thirds of the total population is non-permanent – but there’s no market for music.

GM: 20 years ago, St. Louis had about 300 murders each year, floods, and all sorts of other fun things. You might have heard about us being named the Murder Capital of the USA. Nowadays, a lot here is 150. But there are lots of parts of the city that are returning to former glory. On the whole, St. Louis is a better place to live today than before. Is there any thing like that where you're from? 

Mantus: Well, in Flagstaff murders are unbelievably rare. Statistics that I’ve seen are that there is an average of 0 murders per year. I think violent crime in general is a little higher now than when I was growing up, but that’s a national problem, not necessarily isolated to the mountains of AZ. To your point, I think Flagstaff is very different now than it was when I was growing up.

Up until I started going to college, Flagstaff was small town in every sense of the word. If you grew up there, you pretty much knew everyone in town or were connected with them in some way. Over the last five or six years, however, there has been a pretty significant influx of people going to college at the local university.

My understanding is that it’s cheaper for some out-of-state residents to come here and pay out-of-state tuition as opposed to in-state tuition in their state of residence. Northern Arizona University has seen tremendous growth over the past decade or so but the infrastructure of the city isn’t prepared to handle that growth.

There was a huge problem about ten to fifteen years ago where a lot of local businesses were unable to stay in business because huge conglomerates moved in and priced them out of the market. We saw local businesses flee in droves and now there’s really not much besides huge corporate entities in Flagstaff. Furthermore, all of the available land is being used to build off-campus housing, which is a phenomenon that only started happening in the last few years.

There is very little industry in Flagstaff because of the lack of available space and extremely high prices of available space. I think at this point the median home price is very close to $400,000. So, in essence, I think the problem here isn’t crime, but the disparity between rich and poor is growing at an alarming rate and doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

GM: Are you still there?

Mantus: About a week and a half ago, I actually moved out of Flagstaff, which I had called my home for nearly thirty years.

I moved down to Phoenix and so far it’s been pretty good for me. Moloch still lives in Flagstaff, so we’re still trying to work the distance issue out. So far, we’re still an Arizona-based band, but just because I live in the desert now doesn’t mean that the mountains have left me.

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