Huge thanks to Simon for taking time out of this schedule with everything that’s going on. Support Vestal Claret and all the bands mentioned above, it’s guys like this that deserve the real exposure over bands that just don’t care about the music.
What was your main inspiration/influence when you starting your journey with the guitar?
My guitar journey started on the bass. I was exposed to some really heavy music and automatically had the urge to play. I was inspired by Geddy Lee and Steve Harris, but didn't learn but a few of their lines or songs. I jumped right into making original music. After playing bass for about 5 years or so, I picked up the guitar. I was working with a band and was writing more music than could be completed because of geography, so I traded one of my basses for a Mexican Stratocaster. I used that guitar to complete the songs I had been working on and too write more. My inspiration was the bare fact that I wanted to complete ideas to the finish. My influence during my early days as a guitar player was music theory and some classical pieces I was studying.
With the new record "Bloodbath" coming out on Cyclopean Records in August, how are you feeling about its progress so far and do you feel that it's strong enough to make a significant impact on the doom scene?
The recording is done.. so the progress is right on. I just sent the tracks over to Jason at Cyclopean. He's having them mastered at the end of the month and it's off to press. Making this version of Bloodbath was a bit of a task; we had tracks coming in from all over the place from contributing guests. The end result is something great. Do I think the record is strong enough? Hells yeah. I'm very proud of it and completely stoked that it's finally getting put out. I feel the songs are all individually fantastic. I think whether people love it, hate it, or love to hate it, they will notice it. You never can really tell how the public will react to a record, but all the folks behind it are really excited.
In previous conversations, King Diamond's "Abigail" was mentioned and talked about. How important is that record to you and if you can explain why it's so important? Also, if you could replace that record with any other King Diamond record, which would you choose and why?
Abigail paints a picture and it's completely sick (SIIIICK!!!) at times. Between the musicianship, the wicked concept/lyrics and the vocal delivery, Abigail is one of the darkest and most excellent metal recordings on my shelf. I can go back to that record time again and still feel the chills during certain passages. To conjure my arm hair to stand on end is the result of perfect combination of music and lyrics. That's the power that attracted me to metal, and that power is in Abigal x 10. If I had to replace Abigail with another King Diamond record it would have to be "Fatal Portrait". I kind of like that the entire album is sung in high falsetto. Side A has a great concept and side B has got the hits. I really dig that album cover also. Super record.
The production on "Two Stones" seems to be louder and not as gritty or grimy as "Virgin Blood". Did you guys record both of those at the same studio or what was the deal with that whole situation?
Wow that's a whopper of a question. I have to answer on so many levels. I record everything myself at my studio, UP Recording. Both of those were produced by me, but they are 5 years apart. They were done on different systems with different drummers and were mastered differently. The loudness is leveled out when a recording is put to vinyl. On top of that, I've learned a lot over the past 5 years, which is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. With "Two Stones" the guitar parts are mostly single note, and the new stuff has more chord work, making it heavier at times.
King of Salem; how important is that band to you and are you wanting to continue with both Vestal Claret and King of Salem if the time is right on everything?
King of Salem was formed in 1998, and it will always be there. It is important to me, as it is my outlet for Metal infused Rock. I like to be able to express myself in different genres. We rehearse and play out once every few months to have fun and support our last LP. I see no problem with the KOS and VC co-existing. I'm currently not writing anything for King of Salem due to the overload of Vestal Claret releases, but will be ready to make something new in the new year of the Apocalypse.
How often do you like to write material? Is it just when you and the guys can get together or do you like to write when you have free time?
As often as I can or need to be. I once heard a story from a guy who was talking about another guy (who I won't mention his name because I might as well say it was Rick Astley). Now that I lost you, the jist of this story this guy told me was "don't wait for inspiration". Just write all the time. Do it like a job. You enjoy making music; it's not like a job, but that discipline should still be there. I usually write when I am practicing an instrument. I'll just play and if I stumble on something cool, I'll grab my handy hand held cassette recorder and capture the idea. Sometimes I fall into periods I am not writing when I'm busy in the studio. Sometimes I store ideas and pick them up years later.. It's a mess over here.
After some small digging, I promised I wouldn't go too heavy on you, I saw that you and your wife recently had a little baby girl. Congratulations first off but how is that whole new world treating you as a father?
That's my third kid.. ha I stay home with all my kids and they are all 4 and under. I get tired and my patience is tested daily, but I just hope that they all turn out to be metal heads. All kidding aside, being home with them and being supported by my awesome wife has allowed me to create music and to help others capture their music in the studio. "Bloodbath" was composed during my firstborn's first year. My wife home on maternity leave while I spent countless hours in the dungeon fleshing out ideas and writing new riffs.
After a good dozen listens, "Hex of Harm" is the type of track that can get stuck in someone's head very quickly. What were the influences for those riffs and are you still happy with that track to this day?
Phil and I worked on that track together. The Verse/Chorus he wrote (mammoth chorus) and I wrote the tail end. The riffs in the tail section were influenced by the metal I listened to as a young one, coupled with the classical influence I mentioned before. The same riff keeps showing up in different variations. The original demo track came it at 11+ minutes. When I was composing it, I was just thinking, "I want this to be longer than "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner"!" Alas. I'm still happy with the song. I'm happy with all of them.
Besides the bands and the family that you have, you also work at UP Recording Studio. Are you guys working with any bands at the moment?
I'm recording a band called Burrows at the moment. They share a common guitar player, Jay Kelly, with King of Salem. It's heavy stuff. They still have to come back for the mix so it's not available for listening yet. I've also been producing this local rock band, Not The Kid. They work hard and write a slew of interesting numbers. Vestal Claret has a few recordings in the works also.. We are having a busy year.
Lastly, do you have anyone you would like to shout out or maybe some bands that you find deserving of a mention?
I'd like to thank all the labels who have backed this project, Cyclopean Records, Sarlacc Productions, No Visible Scars and Metal Coven. Psychedoomelic will be releasing the CD version of "Bloodbath" (which will be coupled with the non-guest version of the record). Speaking of guests, I have to say all the good folks who submitted their creative work for this recording did an incredible job. Thank you. My friends, The Omgots, have also been very supportive. The band I'm digging currently is Major Parkinson. They are not metal, but kick my ass none the less. My buddy Tore turned me on them, he's in Norway where they are from. Cool stuff.