Clashing sinews and sonic deities: an interview with Gregg Higgins of Venomous Maximus

Photo by Mark C. Austin

Photo by Mark C. Austin

 Rock/metal, however you wish to describe the enthralling leviathan of invading shadows and seriously addictive melodic alchemy that is the music of Venomous Maximus it is a confrontation which leaves you gasping and hungry for more. The recent worldwide re-release of their debut album Beg Upon The Light has slammed the quartet right in the midst of the most rapacious yet sonically rewarding bands today. Towering riffs and equally mountainous rhythms crowd maelstroms of irresistible grooves and an intensity which staggers within the impressive release backing up the almost fearsome reputation of their live performances. Given the welcome opportunity to quiz and dig deeper into the band with vocalist/guitarist Gregg Higgins, we soon realised this is much more than a band for the man and his colleagues.

Hi Gregg welcome to the RingMaster Review and many thanks for taking time to talk to us.

First of we will ask for the benefit of those yet to be fully acquainted with Venomous Maximus can you give us some background to the beginnings of the band and its members?

I am an artist and a tattooer. Our drummer Bongo builds motorcycles. Trevi is a math mathematician and a hot sauce master and Christian makes everything happen. I moved to Houston 6 years ago and had been planning for 4 or 5 years on starting the band. I was just waiting on the perfect time and the right people. Then everything fell into place…the end.

Was there an immediate connection musically and in thought about how the band would progress between you?

Yes of course. We weren’t getting anyone involved if they had to be taught anything. I think that’s important when putting together a band. Not just finding members that can just play the music. They have to understand the master plan.

Some bands have a ‘leader’, a founder who is the prime force behind the direction or creative input is that the same with Venomous Maximus or is it a more democratic process within the band?

It’s like being on a submarine. It’s a tight ship with not a lot of space to move around. Everyone has a role and job in the band and doesn’t have to be told what to do. I am the main creative force but it’s just a bunch of ideas. Everyone puts in their input but they are the ones that actually make it happen.

You are seemingly tagged as anything from an occult rock band to a doom or heavy rock. I am not sure any of those truly describe your intense flavoursome rock’ n’ roll, how would you describe your massive sounds?

The whole name game that is involved with underground music is getting pretty silly now days. None of it really matters it should be just for fun and a way to describe and communicate what bands sound like to friends. Our goal was if we play a metal show we are the rock band. If we play a rock show we are the metal band. A chameleon if you will.

I have to ask the about the seeds to the great band name, which alone raises images personally of an insidious dark unknown with

gladiatorial strength and purpose.

You have given the best description of the name. When I hear it that’s what I think of… A titan or god from the ancient world. It basically comes from a tattoo design from the 60s and 70s of a solider that has been away from home a little too long.

Lyrically your songs also approach and investigate the unknown and unspoken shadows. Is this an interest which goes beyond just writing songs?

Yes of course. All of the material comes from experiences or situations I have found myself in over the years. I am not signing about graphic novels or movies or religions. This shit is real man!

Your excellent originally self –released debut album Beg Upon The Light has just been given a re-release through Napalm Records, did they come to you with the offer or were you searching for a wider outlet for the release?

We have always had the attitude whatever happens… happens and Napalm was very interested immediately. Some other labels hit us up but we didn’t wanna get lost in the mix so we decided to go with our gut.

So they were not alone in showing interest over past months or so?

Yea I guess I don’t know what your idea of interested is. We can be pretty picky and choosy about dealings with our band. But most of the buzz has started again in the last couple months. The material on the record is getting old to us and time for some new tunes.

942460_10151622495054738_934875440_nBeg Upon The Light was very well received on its first unleashing, were you more confident with this world wide release or in some way more nervous than before?

Truthfully this band began with a spark and I have always known that we would grow into a flame. It’s kinda like when you meet a woman. Something is a little bit different about it…things just seems to work and flow naturally even when problems arise they seem to take care of themselves, almost guided if you will. When things seem to naturally work in life you shouldn’t question them. ..that’s arrogance to me.

The album follows your first EP The Mission of 2011, and though you are still young in terms of the time the band has been in existence how do you feel your music and songwriting has developed between releases and also what you are presumably coming up with as either new material or ideas now?

Yea I feel the material has grown light years. We spent a good two years just me and the drummer working on a set to finally scratch it when the band actually started playing. We spent damn near the 1st two years playing every week, there has been more time spent on stage than in a practice room now. When your material is written in a practice room compared to being written on the road and in a fully functioning band you really see what you’re made of. Right now we are in the process of writing the next record. I truly feel that it is a true interpretation of what we have wanted to sound like. Much more mature song writing with more of a classic approach to rock n roll than just metal or doom or fucking yea. Hopefully there will be a group of people that don’t like it because it’s not our old material… hahahaha…but they can live in the past and do nothing

How does the song writing process work within the band and are songs as good as completed before entering a studio or do you prefer evolving ideas within that environment more?

Its 3 parts me in my bedroom. Then brought to the practice room and then worked out for the stage. Once the kinks are worked out for performing the song, then the studio. All of the salt and pepper is put on in the studio through intense examination and then its dead to me.

Are you quite strict with yourselves over ideas and things that do or do not work when writing? Do you have a mound of elements discarded or shelved for another opportunity?

We treat the band as if it was a being. As if it’s a ghost. He has his own personality and own opinions and knows what he likes and if he wants to change or stay the same we have to respect his decision. We are just here for his voice to come through. He does half the work we do the other half, so not all the decisions are up to us.

Is it riffs or melodies which generally come first for songs, or do are more often triggered from the lyrical side of your invention?

Actually goes back and forth. A lot of times its lyrics and thoughts that really drive me to write a song, or it could be as simple as me jamming Fleetwood mac and going to the guys with we have to write a song like this our way. Which is normally slightly faster with a little bit of chuggy and a blues lick laid on top. If you got a sharp year you could relate every one of our songs to The Cure, Madonna, David Bowie, all the everyday music that elitist underground’s lie about how much they love. We don’t give a shit about any of that. One of my favorite bands is Enya and she ain’t even a band. hahahaha

Beg Upon The Light is an inventive and intensive ravishing which does not really allow any breaths to be taken within its leviathan like confrontation of towering riffs and equally mountainous rhythms as well as enthralling of invading shadows and seriously addictive melodic alchemy, well how we see and feel it anyway. Is it a deliberate intent to have the listener use every part of body, senses, and emotions within its encounter or just something which naturally evolves?

I believe that all artists that have suffered and given their lives up so that they could interpret their experiences to art hope that other people will pick up on what you’re putting down. What you’re explaining is pure projection. It’s the same as someone is lying to you. You can sense they are full of shit, but when people are truly disturbed and upset to their core you can literally feel. Their emotions are so strong and being amplified so much that they literately travel from your body to yours…that’s one of the 12 super powers humans are naturally born with. It’s a shame that people in this modern technology world of information don’t even know the 12 special powers that only human beings possess…or I could be lying about all this. All that really matters is what rings true to you.

You hail from Houston, how would you say the city and surroundings have impacted on you as musicians and band either positively or negatively, if at all?

Houston is my home and I have many friends here but Texas is where I am from. Houston itself is a hell hole of grime and multi cultures. It’s like the New York of the south. One thing that it has provided for us is all the many flavors of culture. So it’s helped us be a little more diverse and not seem like hippie grass eaters from Austin or Pantera rednecks from Dallas. We love all the cities here we just love to talk shit too. It’s a Texas thing. Fun loving shit talking.

Is it a supportive metal scene there for new and emerging bands?vm

Texas can be the easiest and the roughest crowd anywhere you go. People don’t care about the bullshit politics of what kind of band you are. All the crowd wants is for you to play your hardest and get off stage and have a beer and talk to them like a real person. Everybody in Texas thinks about themselves as a rock star on or off stage. So the crowd doesn’t give a shit who you think you are. They wanna drink a beer with you.

You have a great reputation for your live performances and have played with the likes of High on Fire, Down, Guns and Roses, Mastodon, Pentagram, Eyehategod, Fu Manchu, Torche, Black Tusk, Bison BC, the list goes on. Apart from great experience and recognition, what has playing with bands of this calibre brought to your own headlining shows now and in the future, again in a good or negative way?

From day one the bar has been set super high. More than 1/2 of the bands we have played with the members have been playing longer than I have been alive. The intimidation and self-consciousness got to a point of almost conquering me but I am not really one to fail. I will bite my own leg off to get out of a trap. So we had to really bear down and focus and stay out of the bar to figure out if we were gonna do this it’s gotta be all or nothing. But it was just a trial period. When things are forced to live up to a certain expectation after a while that’s just the level it becomes and then you get bored and you take it up a notch and up a notch and up a notch. It’s truly up to you if you ever want to stop progressing because the second you do. You can clearly hear it.

I sense you guys love the live side of the band intensely, more than the time and creative process involved in writing and recording new songs?

Our band is more than a band to us. It’s more like a cult. It’s taken over all of our lives and the wives of the band, but in a good way. It’s became something that brings us all together as people for birthdays, weddings, movie nights and just straight up weekend partying. Not everyone in the world still has the family they had when they were children but everyone needs a family whether they are blood or not. A band or anytime humans group together creativity and happiness should arise. so to answer your question yes this is way more than a band.

What has Venomous Maximus in store for the rest of the year and are we able to talk about a successor to Beg Upon The Light yet?

For the rest of year we are working on writing and recording the new record which will have videos, new line of merch, and a short film. We have a few shows sprinkled in the next couple months but we have worn ourselves thin so right now we are juggling our personal lives, writing and recording and planning most of next year.

Once again a big thanks for sparing time for us, anything you would like to say to the readers?

I wanna thank all the people that have taken their time to take a second glance at something and follow their gut when they feel that there’s a deeper meaning in things. If you ask the question is it going to happen to me that means it is and that’s the truth.

And finally what have been the five most potent inspirations on you musically or personally?

Music I would have to say Beethoven, Pink Floyd The Wall from 5th grade, The Crow and the Doors from 6th grade and for films that helped me get a visual for music. The lists can go on and on. I am the kinda of guy that’s good with lists. For some reason music from people who are sad or disturbed has always just made me happy. It’s the people who relish in superficial joys that make me angry and Kenneth Anger is the shit. Read books so you don’t have to wait

https://www.facebook.com/VenomousMaximus

Read the Beg Upon The Light review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/venomous-maximus-beg-upon-the-light/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 26/07/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

http://www.audioburger.com

Walkways – Safe in Sound

Photo by Avihai Levy Photography | AvihaiPhoto.com

Photo by Avihai Levy Photography | AvihaiPhoto.com

There is no better pleasure than when a band and release you are only vaguely aware of, if at all, comes out of peripheral vision to slap the senses and passions into a state of lustful awareness. That is exactly what Safe in Sound, the debut album from Israeli metallers Walkways did. It is a glorious blend of alternative and nu metal plus more, addiction forming grooves and a hungry snarl setting it apart from most as it brings a refreshing inventive presence to eagerly feast upon.

Formed in 2007, Walkways are relatively unknown outside of their homeland, though a trio of previous singles (including a cover of Adele’s Skyfall) certainly scratched the surface of attention wider afield. With Safe In Sound though you can only sense and hope that the previous state of affairs will be addressed for the quintet of vocalist Ran Yerushalmi, guitarists Bar Caspi and Yoni Menner, bassist Avihai Levy, and drummer Priel Horesh. It certainly has all the invention, imagination, and sheer infectiousness to brand the band on the map of modern metal. Mixed by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Soilwork, Katatonia), the record is a masterful and unpredictable blend of potent flavours and styles which stir the imagination and heart; quite simply it is one of the best albums to grace the year.

From the sinister intro, band and album instantly entwine the listener in deliciously enticing grooves and sonic temptation with Blood 1044369_329815420485756_1779077289_nInto Water, Caspi and Menner simultaneously carving deep furrows in the senses with carnivorous craft or soothing them with melodic weaves. The striking start drops into drifting atmospheric warmth to welcome the excellent vocals of Yerushalmi, a man who across the album proves a fine and inventive vocalist, whilst the rhythms temper their initial provocation to drive this scintillating melodic turn deeper. As it continues to twist the song enslaves a needy hunger for its unpredictable and enthralling offering, seamlessly blending snarling intimidation and glowing smouldering seduction with ease. Sound wise the song comes over like a thrilling mix of Absolace with Coheed and Cambria with the richest bite and invention of Korn and unpredictability of fellow Israelis Onama, the latter pair more pronounced the further the album is explored.

For all of the comparison which will be inspired by the release there is a uniqueness and individuality about Walkways which leaves thoughts and ears excited, especially when tracks like the following All Lies bounds the emotions in a wrap of rapacious imagination and energy. Again a track which fidgets and sizzles with twists of thought and adventure, it takes on a more Korn like presence the further it teases, the vocals evolving into a strong Jonathan Davis resembling stance though again retaining a distinction of their own. It is a continuation of the impressive start strongly continued by Endless I with its slightly schizophrenic sonic dance and flowing wash of melodic grandeur. There is a Deftones whisper or maybe a more Palms like one to its immersive persuasion that only enhances the rich emotive call of the song and leaves a bright blush of pleasure in its wake.

The next two songs are arguably the pinnacle of the album, though favourites shift with each eager listen. Firstly Towards the Light charges up its batteries for an excitable rampage across the ear with a wholly contagious beckoning spawned by a dazzling mix of technical/progressive metal and heavy rock. There is a touch of Nonpoint to the encounter but also Meshuggah glimpses as well as in deceitful quirkiness Scars On Broadway. There is an instant friendship struck up by the track, a familiarity to its lure which without obvious comparisons makes the fun all the more intensive but it is still only an appetiser for its successor. The start of Thoughts is not comfortable, the electro effected vocals suggesting something…well cringe worthy…but to doubt this band is mad as the track soon erupts into a thumping predacious slab of rock ‘n’ roll driven with a Mishkin like creative rabidity and magnetic invention. The latest single from the band it encapsulates everything about Walkways in an irresistible and explosive suasion.

Through the enchanting yet menacing Luminary Kid with spoken vocals adding narrative to what is primarily an instrumental, and Sweet Medicine which is as wonderfully niggling as it is plaintively evocative, the album boils up further before the excellent Out stands with sinews loaded before the ear. It might be a relatively muscular excursion at times but the song takes no time in soothing its passage with some enticing heart bred reflection and colour rich melodic flame of varying degrees of heat through the creative guitars and concentrated expressive vocals, backed by pressing basslines and forceful rhythms. It is a fire of inventive resources which builds into a climatic and dramatic provocation. Korn meets Tricore/An Entire Legion, the song is another lofty highpoint of a towering release.

After the decent enough melancholic instrumental Pause, agitation takes on another depth of imagination with the metallic bedlam of Actions, a track which sees Walkways turn Dog Fashion Disco on our asses with again a sturdy Korn spite to its rhythmic and sonic venom, whilst Skin Deep takes flight over the sores with a melodic wind of passion soaked resonance. To all extents the closure of the album with the brief instrumental Staring Through Closed Blinds adding its epilogue, the track finishes a stunning album. Safe in Sound is an inciting and infectious introduction of Walkways to the world but more than that it is a strikingly creative and thrilling take on modern metal; it has stolen our lust.

https://www.facebook.com/Walkways

9.5/10

RingMaster 26/07/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

http://www.audioburger.com

Barnyard Stompers – Outlaws With Chainsaws

BS

After their impressive debut The Way-Gone, Wild and Rockin’ Sounds of…, anything from the Barnyard Stompers is sure to raise an eager appetite and so it was with follow-up full length Outlaws With Chainsaws. Whereas the previous album stalked the essences of rockabilly, cowpunk, and country blues stone predominantly within its mischievous sound, the Denver based duo of Casey Miller and Megan Wise have taken a deeper dip in the country side of their passion on the new release, though all essences and more have a tasty place in the mix. It is twelve songs if diverse and distinctive dark devilry brought with a fifties rawness and twenty first century devilment.

Miller and Wise have collectively played in many legendary roots music outfits including The Hillbilly Hellcats and The Bop Kings but teaming together has arguably been their finest move and certainly as evidenced by the two albums since, meant the creation of a sound which whilst merging numerous styles has evolved into something distinct and unique to them. Soon to take their Backwoods Twang across Europe and the UK this autumn, Outlaws With Chainsaws is a mighty introduction for those yet to be infected with their ‘red-neck’ power.

As with its predecessor, Outlaws With Chainsaws is rife with the band’s black and open humour as well as vintage sounds turned into 942079_603596589651616_325395941_nsomething eccentric and compelling yet true to their inspirations be that the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Carl Perkins and Hank Williams musically and also vocally. The opening title track instantly proves the point, the opening blood soaked sample replaced by a resonating rich twang from the guitar of Miller soon joined by the provocative beats of Wise. Ripe with a slow compulsive groove and throaty ambience to the sound the track lays a mix of psychobilly and cowpunk sculpting on the senses and visual evocation to the imagination. The drums of wise persistently frame the emerging red hued thoughts with accomplished incitement allowing Miller to tease discord and melodies with his guitars distinctive flavour. Though it never explodes beyond its impending dangerous breath it is an excellent start to the album and indication that we are about to have a real ride.

The following Stinkin’ Drunken S.O.B. Blues provides what its title suggests, a booze fuelled narrative wrapped in equally potent blues ‘misery’ and country bred swagger, but there are also elements of the more rockabilly aspects of say a Hasil Adkins to its engaging company. It continues the strong beginning and is soon joined in that cause by both the Cash like delivered tale of White Trash Family and Falling Down. For the first of the pair, though containing great backing vocals from Wise, it is the lyrical tale which steals the show, its story a humoured stereotypical outsider’s view of country folk whilst its successor is a slowly heated piece of emotive persuasion with hot chords and southern melodies veining a rising intensive rock embrace. It is a slow burner of a song which sounds better with each taking of its evocative breath.

For all the potency up to this point it is the tarmac rumbling Truck Drivin’ Son-Of-A-Bitch which steals the show on the album, its thumping attitude and passion guzzling energy a heavy slab of rock ‘n’ roll playing like a sixteen wheeled semi driven by The Reverend Horton Heat navigated by Carl Perkins aided by the whispers of Lux Interior. It is an excellent brute of a song finding its sinew glory in the simplicity of the drive of the duo and the dark throated tones of Miller. Its triumph is equalled immediately by the excellent Choctaw Outlaw, the flavoursome instrumental a mix of fifties craft and surf rock fire which sounds like a dessert created  by a recipe created by Johnny and the Hurricanes and The Shadows with extra spice from The Ventures and The Ghastly Ones.

The likes of the country stomping Topless Tuesday and the dark hillbilly croon Corn Liquor which features just Miller’s vocals and his old timer harmonica feed the appetite further whilst the diverse Cajun reaping pair of Snake Eyed Baby and the wonderfully sinister Shallow Grave take thoughts into more openly black-hearted adventure and mischief.

The album is completed by Seein’ Double and When Death Comes Knocking; two more appealing pieces of sultry rock ‘n’ roll borne of various aural nutrients. It has to be said before hearing the release that finding out the band had gone into their country seeded imagination more on the album left a small fear inside, that genre one we have never been able to embrace, but Barnyard Stompers employ it in their ingenious way to be another, though strong at times for sure, agreeable flavour. Outlaws With Chainsaws is a great album, one which personally just misses out on matching their outstanding debut but impressively sure gives it a good run for its money.

www.barnyardstompers.com

8/10

RingMaster 26/07/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

http://www.audioburger.com