Otto Kinzel Interview

Back in 2010 through the Reputation Radio Show we were introduced to the striking and intriguing band Chemical Distance, their song Red Queen’s Race becoming a firm favourite. Otto Kinzel, creator of the band, emerged through the few communications we engaged in as a gentleman and enthused musician we had to take notice of. The following year though we simply lost touch with what he and the band was up to but  recently he came back into our view with his remix for the latest Virus Cycle album. This was just the reminder we needed to catch up and find out more about his solo work as well as past and upcoming projects plus learn more about his own record label. So with pleasure we bombarded Otto with questions and this is what we found out.

Hi Otto, many thanks for taking time to talk with us.

No problem Pete, thank you for giving me the opportunity!

Firstly tell us a little about yourself and back ground outside of music.

I was born in Nyack, NY but lived all over the Eastern US as a kid. My parents divorced when I was really young so my sister and I would get shuttled back and forth from wherever my dad and Mom were living, respectively, so New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware…but I ultimately grew up in Vermont, so I consider myself a Vermonter.

Was your childhood lived with music always around?

Not at first. Neither of my parents was very musically inclined. But once we (my dad, sister and I) moved to Vermont, we were then living close to my uncle Bob (my dad’s brother). He plays guitar, has been in bands, toured, recorded, the whole 9 yards. I had been interested in playing guitar since I was very young, so when I turned 12 my dad bought me a Gibson Les Paul knock-off and a tiny 15 watt Peavey amp. My uncle gave me some lessons to get me started. I think the very first song I learned was Bob Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. My uncle Bob is really the one who got me started and helped me on my way.

When did you realise your were destined to and simply had to make music?

As soon as I heard distortion coming through that tin amp for the first time. That’s when I knew I was onto something magical.

Who were your biggest influences/favourite bands and artists growing up?

As a kid my only outlet for music was my older sister’s cassette tapes. All my music was “hand me down” stuff so I had Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and some of the other big artists of the time. I think I also had the We Are The World soundtrack, hahaha, but once I got a little older I discovered Metal. It blew me away. Again once we moved to Vermont a lot of things opened up to me. Not only did my uncle get me started playing guitar, but I also got exposed to a wide new world of heavy music. My cousin Ethan, whose 4 years older than me, listened to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth…all sorts of Thrash Metal at the time. His bedroom was covered in posters from these bands. I remember vividly staring at pictures of Iron Maiden’s “Eddie” and being mesmerized by the artwork and detail. So it wasn’t long after that I went out and started buying albums from these bands. I was always looking for the next heavy ass band, so after starting with Metallica and Maiden, I got into some Death Metal, Industrial-metal (including KMFDM and Ministry, who are still two of my all-time favourite bands) and the like.

You have been a member of and played in numerous bands over the past decade. Thinking of pre-Chemical Distance was this just as a musician or were you already in the production side of music then too?

I got started in the production side of music my senior year of high school, 1997 I think. It was more out of desperation than anything. At that time high quality studios in Vermont were slim, and the ones that did exist were insanely expensive. I bought a Tascam 8-track recorder, a book on home recording techniques, and that was that. A LOT of trial and error, and a LOT of very bad recordings, ha-ha. But I learned and learned, and down the road was able to get some formal training, which helped a lot.

Were the bands in that period of your life ones you started or existing ones you joined?

Almost all of them were ones I started. I tried joining a couple here and there but it never felt right. I always felt like a guy who was just a third wheel. I want to be responsible for building something on the ground level.

We first came across you with your band Chemical Distance and the excellent The Pain & The Progress album. I am right in believing originally the project and album was intended as a solo thing for you?

Yes that is correct. I wanted to do a studio project and just have a ton of different musicians collaborate on each song. Kind of toss everyone’s influences into a blender and see how it comes out. Michael Hauply-Pierce ended up doing vocals on most of the album; although Greg Boedecker did vocals on a couple of songs and Keith Chisholm did vocals on No “Real” Friends.  Bob Dwyer played guitar and added synth to a couple of songs as well and Marc Brennan added live drums and some extra guitar to a few songs.

What was the trigger for evolving things into a fully contributing band?

I ended up doing a series of shows to promote the album, when it was still in pre-release. It felt very strange having Michael (Hauptly-Pierce- vocals) and Matt (Connarton- bass) on stage with me, playing their asses’ off, all for my “solo” project. We were all on stage sweating and working hard together. Everything was really clicking as far as the chemistry between the three of us. It just evolved and no longer felt “right” calling it Otto Kinzel. The project had morphed into a proper band.

Is the band still an active thing amongst the wealth of other projects you are involved with?

We released a 7 song EP in 2011 called This Program Is Not Responding. We didn’t do nearly the amount of touring and promotion that we did for The Pain & The Progress, so it got a bit lost unfortunately. But it’s available on the Bluntface website at http://www.bluntfacerecords.com/fr_chemicaldistancethisprogramisnotresponding.cfm

And we just released a brand new Chemical Distance song called Caritas on a String, which is available as a free download on the GET TURNED ON: Music from the Underground compilation album.

In the different bands you have played guitar, sung, synths as well as created the programming, produced and more. Which aspect gives you the most satisfaction and do you think need this variety to your work to keep fresh and imaginative?

I think playing guitar and writing really heavy riffs gives me the most satisfaction as a musician. But really they all complement each other. Sometimes I’ll have some writer’s block when it comes to guitar, so I can work on programming beats. And then while listening to what I programmed Voila! A riff pops into my head, same with synths. Everything fuels the creative process and helps to keep my writing and performance moving forward.

When you write songs is there a certain intent you try to bring forth with your music or does it evolve all on its own?

It’s really all over the place, there is no formula or procedure I go thru. Sometimes I start with a riff; other times I program drums first and then put guitars to it and mess with the structure; and other times it starts with a vocal harmony.

What about on the production side, is there a certain thought or feel you try to create certainly with your own music?

I really enjoy layering the music with very deep levels of sound. I want to have a full spectrum of frequencies and lots of panning within the stereo space. I really like “headphone” albums that mess with your senses.

Tell us about your solo album of last year We Are All Doomed: The Zodiac Killer.

I wanted to a “real” solo album, where I did all the production, wrote all the songs and played all the instruments (for the most part). I had some down time and always had this idea in my head but never had the time or focus t really flesh it out.

The inspiration is obvious to everyone right away from the title but what actually made you want to turn the infamous time into a theme for an album?

I’ve always been fascinated with the Zodiac killer. The fact he’s never been caught (and the case is still unsolved) makes it even more fascinating. I was obsessed with it for a while in the early 2000’s. I did a lot of investigating on my own and a ton of research. I wanted to album to be 100% historically accurate and really represent the timeline of events and how the murders were committed.

Your music is something which challenges as much as it rewards, this is an important aspect to your creativity?

Absolutely! I think that’s something that any musician who is worth anything strives for.

You have recently linked up with Johnny Virum and Virus Cycle which came from doing a remix of one of their tracks on the album Return To Zombieland?

Yes. The remix went really well and we “jived” right away, as far as chemistry in the studio goes.

You are working with them on their new album, is this just as producer or are you part of the band too now?

I’m producing the new Virus Cycle album, Zombiechrist, and playing bass in the studio for Johnny (Virum, Virus Cycle’s frontman and driving force).

There is also a collaborative project KINZEL v VIRUM coming soon?

Yes, this is much more of a true collaboration. Musically it’s going to be more of an Industrial-Metal album, like Ministry or Psyclon Nine. Basically I’m playing guitar and doing the drum programming, and Johnny is doing the vocals and providing audio clips.  I expect this album to be released in late 2012, around winter time.

What is it about Virus Cycle and their form of industrial metal which excites you? This is a new sound for you to explore?

It’s a couple of things. First off, I love the whole zombie aspect and the various themes of apocalypse that are integrated into the lyrics. I like music that has a concept, a message. We are kindred spirits in that regard. Second I love Johnny’s work ethic. He bust his ass at what he does, he works very, very hard, which is something I have great respect for. And third, he’s a really cool guy.

You also alongside all your projects and work created and run Bluntface Records. Tell us why when constantly busy you still spread into that time consuming area of music.

The label has been around for several years now, almost 10! I started it for many of the same reasons I started doing my own production work: out of necessity. I had worked with some other label’s in the past and always felt like they never cared about what I was doing nearly as much as I did. So I said “fuck it” and decided to take my fate in my own hands. I needed a platform to release my own stuff, so it made sense.

The label has released diverse artists and sounds, what is it you look for in music which makes you consider releasing and working with it and what do you offer them which many other labels fail in?

I can’t speak about other labels because I really don’t pay attention to them to be honest. I am way too busy with my own life and music to be bothered. But for me, I love music that is “left-of-centre”, something that wouldn’t normally get played on radio; something that is really different. I want to hear artists who are not afraid to take chances and stick their necks out. Even if that particular concept doesn’t work, as long as they’re willing to try and push the envelope towards something unique, then that’s something I want to hear. There’s too much of the regular, everyday bullshit that we’ve heard a thousand times, especially in hard rock.  If you have satellite radio just turn on the Octane channel and you can hear a hundred bands all following the same song writing formula with the same style of guitar tone, the same style of drum production, and all the signers have the same “I can sing clean but also dirty” screams. It’s like there’s a factory just churning out these bands on an assembly line.

I also think that by staying small and focusing only on a hand full of artists, we can give them a lot more attention with their promotional campaigns. And it allows us to be very selective in whom we work with. We are under no financial obligation to sign whatever fad is popular.

What are the latest and upcoming releases on the label to watch out for?

Virus Cycle’s Zombiechrist, which will be out in the late fall; KINZEL v VIRUM which will be out in the winter, and currently Bradox64, which is an Electronic/Glitch/Break core/Bizarre album from NH Electronic musician Braden McFarland. That album is out now, buy it at http://bradox64.bandcamp.com/

Other than the Virus Cycle album what is next for Otto Kinzel?

Just plugging away in the studio ha-ha. I have a couple of things up my sleeve for later this year J

Is there any room for more solo work in the near future?

That’s one of the “things” I was referring to. I’m doing research on a specific subject right now, and have already started working on some pre-production.

Again thanks for chatting with us.

Would you like to leave with any last words or thoughts?

Thank you for having me, I really appreciate you giving me a chance to talk to your publication. As for last words? How about “You got cookie for me?”

The Ringmaster Review 07/07/2012

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Inner Blast: Sleepless Monster

The debut EP from Portuguese gothic metal band Inner Blast is one of those frustrating releases which have much more to offer than is allowed to show. Sleepless Monster is an imaginative collection of songs sabotaged by a poor production which leaves them a shadow of the glory they suggest they have within them. The EP has been self released by the band and as with all independent artists finances are rarer than finding people publicly praising Justin Bieber. This possibly is the situation with this release, its need for a top notch production and appreciative mind behind the controls with no disrespect to the person(s) who took the role here, losing out to available funding. There is seemingly an impressive release bursting to get out and one can only hope an opportunity to let the band realise that promise in these songs is sent their way.

The seeds of the Lisbon band began in 2006 with the current quintet coming together four years later. Through live shows and taking part in rock contests the band soon had people taking notice which led to an invitation to submit a track for a CD compilation available through Infektion Magazine and also an appearance on Rock on Side B vol.1 release through Raging Planet Records. Sleepless Monster makes it easy to see why Inner Blast drew such responses and will continue to, the band creating well crafted and atmospheric music to open up and satisfy the senses. Arguably they are not yet the most original but they are more accomplished and promising than most similar styled newer bands.

The release opens with Better Days a song which takes no time in drawing full attention its way. The opening atmosphere through the keys of Monica and soaring vocals tones of Liliana lighting up the air. As the track emerges with the rhythms of drummer Sabu guiding the ear firmly whilst the guitar of Aquiles scythe sharp riffs through the atmosphere there is an intriguing pull. The song is an intelligent mix of powerful energy and driving metal sounds, which without having the most intimidating intensity are pleasingly forceful, alongside a mesmeric melodic warm of vocals and harmonies which one can only be impressed by, sadly though the production negates the glory that could have been. The excellent voice of Liliana lies against the music rather than within so there is a clear definition between the two which sounds wrong. Her range is strong but when she hits those searing highest notes it is like a sonic laser with no tempering production to bring their richness and rounded quality through. The other issue is the hollow feel across all aspects of the song. The assumption is there was an attempt to expand on and deepen the undeniable ethereal quality of the music but rather than let the sounds organically create this the added help just makes it sound like it was recorded in a cavern or a cold public loo, sad as this is a rather decent song as is the release as a whole.

The title track comes next and as with the rest of the release take the previous comments as to production and such as permanently standing across all songs so we can just concentrate on the positives. From a groaning almost bestial breath the guitars conjure an electrified pattern which frames the lyrics and vocals of Liliana whilst the keys weave an excellent melodic siren like glaze across the ambience of the song. As with the first track it feels like there is an aggression urging to break free but tempered by the harmonic breath it is held down to good effect.

The best two songs on the release come next in Tears and Fixation. The first opens with sounds of a brewing storm laced with emotive piano play before opening its eager arms to share an explosive passion which breaks through the limiting production. The voice of Liliana is at its most triumphant on this song whilst musically everything is perfectly aligned with the bass of Luis a brooding and prowling presence, The second of the two again introduces itself on a hypnotic piano start before spreading into a startling and fully pleasing melodic charm, the song a wash of heated beauty fired with stirring guitars and punchy rhythms.

The closing and decent Open Minds again has a similar stance as the previous pair especially for its start which suggests diversity is still waiting to be fully explored within the band but it is an easily agreeable song to end what is in Sleepless Monster certainly a very promising release despite being held back by production. Given the chance to truly express themselves and their songs in a top environment the feeling is Inner Blast will be a band to watch and enjoy much more.

RingMaster 07/07/2012

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Meursault: Something For The Weakened

Photographer – Finlay Cowe

Unacquainted with the sounds of Scottish band Meursault but led by descriptions that their music was to simplify things electronic synth based lo-fi imaginations, new album Something For The Weakened emerged as an intriguing and very different surprise to what one expected. A release of eclectic invention and fully engaging creativity it pleasingly opened up and played upon the heart with compelling enterprise.

Edinburgh based Meursault began in 2006 formed by singer songwriter Neil Pennycook. The twilight of 2008 saw the release of debut album Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues which inspired well spread acclaim. The following year saw a companion acoustic EP to the album released in the shape of Nothing Broke to be followed by what was said to be more experimental sounds within the pair of singles William Henry Miller Parts One and Two, and in 2010 second album All Creatures Will Make Merry. The album saw Pennycook bringing a mesh of twisted modern folk stories and honest introspective songs and again strong and thoroughly favourable reviews followed in its wake, Pennycook and Meursault lighting up a rapidly growing audience not only from their releases but live too.

Released via Song, By Toad Something For The Weakened finds Pennycook aided by the talents of Calum MacLeod, Lorcan Doherty, Sam Mallalieu, and Ben Fletcher, exploring sounds, atmospheres, and emotions to leave one at the very least thoughtfully provoked. Recorded at Pumpkinfield Studios Perth and engineered by cellist Pete Harvey who also contributed musically, the album is a fresh and unpredictable pleasure of inspired songwriting and invention, its lyrics and sound deeply expressive and persistently impressive.

First song Thumb to be honest brought a little initial uncertainty. A simple union of voice, stirring strings and generally repetitive words brought with restrained emotion it played with a sparse yet delicate feel which as much as one tried to avoid reminded of the theme tunes to old seventies British Children TV show Bagpuss. The piece itself is strong enough but that element did leave one wondering where things were going.

Where it led was into the outstanding new single Flittin’. From its opening pinched squalls of atmosphere and stroking guitar the song erupts into a sweeping passionate envelopment of inspiring heart driven warmth. With almost anthemic surges the song wraps itself firmly around the ear ensuring a welcoming canvas for the compelling premise and its lyrical realisation. There is an epic feel to its air which reminds of bands like Letters and almost demands the most willingness of attention.

The folk pleasuring of the touching Lament For a Teenage Millionaire, a reworking of a track which first was unveiled on their debut album, offers another avenue for thoughts to immerse within whilst its outstanding and imaginative successor Settling from its distantly striking intro, evolves into a feisty brew of earnest vocals, incendiary passion, and wonderful flames of discordance to rile up the air. The diversity of sounds and songwriting is fully evident on the album at this point, their varied and evocative textures a constant unexpected and intriguing journey.

Tracks like the slightly distressing and powerful ballads Hole and Mamie, both heart tugging investigations to fall within, open up disconcerting at times but absorbing atmospheres to incite feelings. The piano and strings on the second of the two especially mesmerise and haunt to spark inner emotions and searching thoughts , again showing  the and mesmeric creativity on the album. It is though when Meursault raise the temperature and energies that they arguably draw the strongest responses as in Dull Spark. Led in by the brief ambient instrumental Lightning Bolt the track is a tempered riot of eager and resourceful melodies brought upon an exuberant energy of the fullest infection.  A song which heart and feet cannot refuse it is the fullest flame within the passionate fire of the album.

    Meursault is a band which engages on many levels and leaves one deep in thought and pleasure. If intelligent and heart exploring songs excites your emotions than Something For The Weakened will be a sure passion.

https://www.facebook.com/meursaultmusic?ref=ts

Ringmaster 07/07/2012

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Grime: Self Titled

With parts of the UK right now being consumed with unprecedented torrents of rain and storms, intrusive merciless floods, and oppressive land and mudslides, the perfect soundtrack to it all comes in the shape of the debut self titled release from Italian sludge metallers Grime. The six track album is a destructive monster of unrelenting ravenous aural filth, a dirty and vicious assault of expansive grievous grooves and crushing vile riffs to devour the senses. It is arguably maybe not the most original but certainly stands as one of the most severe and brutal which can never be a bad thing.

From Trieste the quartet of vocalist/guitarist Marco, guitarist Lorenzo, bassist Paulo, and Chris on drums, came together mid 2010 with a shared passion for the likes of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Grief, Sourvein, Eyehategod, and Buzzov’en and the want to create their own intrusive and to be feared sounds. What emerges as evidenced by this release is a sound which leaves a wasted carcass in its wake, their combination of slow towering riffs, caustically scorching grooves, and murderous rhythms an annihilatory assault brought with the uncontrollable intensity of an avalanche. The band which features ex-members of The Secret and Pianoearthquake, has shared stages with the likes of Cough, The Secret, Tombs, Morkobot, and Leechfeast and increasingly pulling in acclaim which their debut can only accelerate.

Released via Mordgrimm the album offers an intense and inescapable maelstrom of sludge metal escalated to inhuman levels with equally abusive doom oppression and stoner melodic greed, all mutated and distorted into a mugging of decaying hungry intensity. It is harsh, at times almost unbearable but ultimately very rewarding. The opening track Self Contempt immediately overwhelms the ear with an insistent brew of corruptive riffs and drum bitch slaps entwined with a plaintive groove as inwardly insatiable and sadistic as the song title suggests. The vocals are sonically acidic within the spewing scrambling growls to further draw every vindictive and venomous essence the track can find within its black heart.

It is an impressive start easily backed up and bettered by following song The Journey. With a lumbering energy and groove as additive as it is manipulative beside the wonderful the ear flaying vocals of Marco, the track leads the senses through a cess pit of staggering onerous intent. It is nasty, it is insatiable and it is glorious dare one say even beautiful.

The album is in full consumptive near excruciating malevolence now, something Charon and Chasm only force home with further brutality and to dehabilitating effect. The first emerges from the lowest downtuned depths to create the thickest and rawest tsunami of bulk dragging intensity. The riffs turn lethargy into an art form, their punishing ponderous crawl borne of the mightiest predator. The second of the pair is a charnel house of festering senses and twisted emotions, a bedlam of dragging visceral insanity. Midway the track lurches into a resemblance of energetic intent to throw unpredictability into the underlining inventive textures beneath the wall of sonic mud, its effect thrusting the already unhinged assault into overload.

Completed by the unbridled spite and ignited stoner energised attack of the outstanding Born Sick and the excellent swamp fresh blistering of Wife Beater, the album is an equally testing and deeply satisfying release. It does and brings exactly what it says on the tin, well the band name, with a quality one can only hungrily feast upon and shout about. It is borne from a similar thick pit of soiled passion as from the neighbouring likes of Noothgrush, Eyehategod, and Sourvein, but fuelled with its own nasty intent to stand apart. Grime is stuff of nightmares and the perpetrators with their debut release of pure satisfaction.

RingMaster 07/07/2012

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