ERIC BLACKWOOD & ANTHONY J. FOTI ..... (Blackwood & Foti, Closenuf, Edison's Children)
REV. DR. BILL GRAM ..... (Killing For Christ)
PHIL JONES ..... (Phil Jones Band)
THEO CEDAR JONES ..... (Swaybone)
SCOTT KELLY ..... (Neurosis)
SETH MAJKA Interview 1
SETH MAJKA Interview 2
UNCLE BOB NYC ..... (3tles)

J.D. BRADSHAW ..... (Debbie Caldwell Band)
PAUL CROOK ..... (Anthrax, Meat Loaf, Sebastian Bach)
NICK DOUKAS ..... (Full Circle, Half Angel, student of John Petrucci & Al Pitrelli)
DAX PAGE ..... (Kirra)
MARTY PARIS ..... (Paris Keeling, Permanent Reverse, Barbarian Way)
RUINED MACHINES & MICHAL BRODKA ..... (Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration) Interview 1
RUINED MACHINES (aka KENYON IV) ..... (World Of Rock Records, Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration) Interview 2
CHRIS SANDERS ..... (Knight Fury, Lizzy Borden, Nadir D'Priest, Ratt)
TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY & DAMOND JINIYA ..... (Rebel Pride Band, Under The Gun Project)
"METAL" DAN SORBER ..... (Thy Kingdom Done, Ferox Canorus)
ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 1
ERIC STROTHERS & ZACH LORTON ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2
CHRIS MICHAEL TAYLOR ..... (Carmine & Vinny Appice's Drum Wars, Sunset Strip, Hair Nation)

A.L.X. ..... (Love Crushed Velvet)
GRAHAM BONNET ..... (Rainbow, Alcatrazz)
JOE DENIZON ..... (Stratospheerius, Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp, Sweet Plantain)
DORO ..... (Warlock)
TOMMY FARESE ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Kings Of Christmas, A Place Called Rage)
ANTHONY J. FOTI & ERIC BLACKWOOD ..... (Blackwood & Foti, Closenuf, Edison's Children)
ANGIE GOODNIGHT ..... (Fill The Void)
CORNELIUS GOODWIN ..... (12/24 Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute Band)
DAMOND JINIYA & TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY ..... (Savatage, Retribution, Under The Gun Project)
STEFAN KLEIN ..... (Dethcentrik, Dod Beverte, f.k.k.d.) Interview 1
STEFAN KLEIN ..... (Dethcentrik, Dod Beverte, f.k.k.d.) Interview 2
GUY LEMONNIER ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Kings Of Christmas, Wizards Of Winter)
ZACH LORTON & ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2
PARK SIPES ..... (Sunset Strip, Barbarian Way, Tune In To Mind Radio Kelly Keeling Tribute album)
ZAK STEVENS ..... (Savatage, Circle II Circle) Interview 1
ZAK STEVENS ..... (Savatage, Circle II Circle) Interview 2

SCOTT KELLY ..... (Wizards Of Winter)
ERIK NORLANDER ..... (Asia Featuring John Payne, Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane)
MICHAEL T. ROSS ..... (Lita Ford, Missing Persons, Raiding The Rock Vault Las Vegas Revue)

DAVE CRIGGER ..... (Foghat, World XXI, Michael Fath)
CHRIS NUNES ..... (Ornament Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute Band)
JOHN WETTON ..... (Asia, King Crimson, Roxy Music)

RAFA MARTINEZ ..... (Black Cobra)


RODNEY MILES & ALISON TAYLOR ..... (365 Surprising & Inspirational Rock Star Quotes Book)
SEVEN (aka ALAN SCOTT PLOTKIN) ..... (Exile In Rosedale author, Public Enemy, Busta Rhymes)
ALISON TAYLOR & RODNEY MILES ..... (365 Surprising & Inspirational Rock Star Quotes Book)

MATT CHABE ..... (Bangtown Timebomb, Chapter Two Marketing)
JAMES MOORE ..... (Independent Music Promotion, Your Band Is A Virus Book)

MIKE "THE BIG CHEESE" CATRICOLA ..... (Heavy Metal Mayhem Podcast, Stillborn)

October 13, 2014

"In The War Torn Countries" An Interview With THERAPHOSA

Sept 2014 (phone)

Missouri based Theraphosa is an experimental industrial metal band that pushes boundaries emotionally via unique vocals, thrash guitars & unexpected ethnic vocal & music samples. In 2014 they released their formal debut Hung Like Mussolini. After some line-up changes since their 2009 formation Theraphosa became the duo of multi-instrumentalist Pete Koenig & vocalist Tim Schnieders. Sadly, in an update, but weeks after this interview was posted they'd gone their separate ways.

Upon receiving their debut I was immediately struck by the uniqueness of the band's music that puts very different musical flavors together against hard to digest World War II packaging. I kept me listening to the album numerous times in a row, both for the mix of musical flavors that organically push & pull at each other, but more so to find the bigger picture in their music as this was obviously not a band just looking for some shocking album title to match with some strange metal music. This is a band with a story to tell ... which we discuss more in this interview. I always have had an appreciation of bands that want to send a message with their music, a far harder task than to just write a 3 minute love ballad or throw up some shocking imagery for the metal of it. I had the opportunity to talk with Pete & Tim briefly for an interview just as unexpected as their music ... not knowing at the time this would be their final interview.

* * * *

AJ: This year saw the release of your 5 song debut EP Hung Like Mussolini, though the band has been around since 2009. What's the history of THERAPHOSA & what took so long to record?

PETE: THERAPHOSA was founded by myself & our original drummer, Victor Miller, after our previous band FACES OF DEATH disbanded in April 2009. We spent the rest of 2009 writing music, theorizing about what this new band would be like & completing our line up. Our friends Vato Ramirez & Dick Johnson from RULE OF HONOR became our singer & bassist, respectively, & we did our first shows as THERAPHOSA in early 2010. During that summer we bought recording equipment & Vic & myself began recording the drums, guitars, keyboards & samples. We tried to track the vocals & bass but Vato & Dick weren't nailing the material down so Victor & myself made a cool split with them. Tim joined us in September 2011. We had been in a band called SLI-LINC in 2005-06. He added to vocals to our demo. We felt the demos were okay but we wanted to get working on our full length 16-track debut. We began working on it in Spring 2013, but had scheduling & financing issues, so we came up with the idea of doing an EP instead.

AJ: Was everything written new for the EP, starting the project from scratch?

PETE: We jacked 3 songs from the original album's track listing & wrote 3 new songs to make the EP. I started tracking Victor's drums in May 2013 but only got 2 decent cuts, "Big Paxton" & "Neda". The secret track is "The Revolting Blob" & was lifted from the demo. I tracked all my guitars & keyboards in Fall 2013 & Tim recorded his vocals & samples in Winter 2013-14. It was done & released on April 1, 2014, which was the band's 5th year anniversary.

AJ: At which point did you become a duo?

PETE: Victor made his cool split with us in April 2014 as well. On Hung Like Mussolini we didn't use any of his music but still have it in the vault for a rainy day or reunion tour. There are about 8 to 11 songs in the vault that are either written by him or co-composed by he & I.

AJ: So, it was just a lot of changes & quasi-false starts then.

TIM: Music fans can still find our early demos as free downloads on Reverb Nation & Bandcamp, along with the many sites we started before the digital distributor for Hung Like Mussolini started putting up their pages on iTunes & such.

AJ: Anything you want to add to the history, Tim?

TIM: I joined the band in the middle of a musical hiatus, so I wasn't sure what I was looking for in a project. They offered a role in THERAPHOSA of a newer style I had never really tried as far as the progressive death metal vocals mixed with samples. I was reluctant, but I had worked with Pete & Victor before recording or doing sound for their past bands & in the aforementioned alternative metal band SLI-LINC with Pete in past. So I knew I wouldn't be uncomfortable as far as the members personalities, so I went all in. Then Victor had to move on, like Pete said, but remains a close friend, fan & mentor to the band since his words to me over period we worked together stuck with me. After I had a first couple practices & demo songs solid, from the bands past material they gave me, ready, Victor pulls me aside to apologize & says "Man, I'm sorry. Before you joined us we had spent a while in a rut with no worthy vocalist to keep up. So we wrote the music harder, faster, bigger to compensate for no vocalist at time. Then you show up & still lay down above & beyond what we have asked others for years to try on simpler material. So sorry ff you felt intimidated to perform to a standard set really high. But, thanks for being a champ & working with us on this. Hey, I promise any new THERAPHOSA song we will make room for you to do your thing vocally or samples." Anyway .... So here we are in Hung Like Mussolini times & Pete & I have bonded to a bizarre duo, partnership, brotherly relationship whatever into THERAPHOSA has musically evolved into over the past year or so of getting this CD from our notebooks & heads to listeners ears worldwide. So, next question, please.

AJ: That would be the most obvious question - what does the name THERAPHOSA mean?

PETE: Theraphosa is the genus name for the species of Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula, one of the largest in the world. They're found in Peru & Brazil.

TIM: As a band the name the big scary Tarantula kinda symbolizes our bigger than life sound & attitudes to music. For me, it fit my situation joining in THERAPHOSA with them already solid on music. I'm a reclusive & quiet guy by nature, & at the time of offering to join band I was in hiding from my music career after 15 straight years of past recording & performing burn out. But, Pete kept pouncing out of shadows to follow up, & had me in web of material he sent. So, to me, other then the textbook meaning of Theraphosa, we seem to have unknowingly taken on its spirit as a band & musicians needing to go into hiding from time to time to gather thoughts, materials, priorities whatever. Then we pounce out on prey in music industry & hit them with our musical venom & webbing. & well ... listeners can hit up the nature blogs online for more of the insect feeding elaboration!

AJ: If my readers are like me they'll be googling an image of that. But, speaking of larger than life sound .... Your music is a heavy combination of thick guitars, samples & synth programming with vocals that seem to take a backseat, or I could say, a part of the overall sound versus being front & center as is expected from metal bands. How did you develop this particular sound/approach & decide to break away from being the traditional vocal fronted metal band & put more emphasis on samples for providing the vocal parts? Though, I think you touched upon this already.

PETE: For this particular album it just turned out that way. That was down to Tim & I working feverishly on the music while giving Tim the go ahead to do as many or as little lyrics as he saw fit. My personal opinion is that metal is a shell of it's former self now & really needs a radical change. Throughout the history of the band we have just pushed into an experimental direction to find the best path to changing the art form & music genre. We wanted a much more diverse soundscape than the traditional, or even contemporary, style. The latter gets boring to us so we push on doing our thing. Even if it's our own instrument we don't mind pushing it back in the mix so that other elements are front & center.

AJ: Since you're the vocalist, Tim, what's your feelings on this?

TIM: Like I said earlier, I'm quiet by nature off stage. I also grew up around deaf & mute children at my sisters special needs school, & understand sometimes you can say volumes by not speaking at all. I'm also a little self conscience, but mature enough in my abilities & career to know to listen around me. If I hear some public media news bit, female voice or even another male vocalist ... if the need arises to get a song to sound really good to us both. Then my rock star diva singer ego can, will, & does take a back seat for sake of the music & art as a whole. THERAPHOSA isn't the Tim show band, never was & never should be. So, I'll do my role as vocalist & sampler programmer, & what musical collaboration my meager talents offer & if THERAPHOSA molts, mutates, & morphs over next years & recordings I'm on; I hope to grow more all around as a musician to help keep with in the bands mission statement of providing quality song writing & recording for listeners.

AJ: Often the title of an album is reflective of its lyrical content, but being that you guys have minimal vocals it's harder to maybe understand the bigger picture, if there is one, though your graphics are too politically charged to think there isn't something there. Tell me about the idea behind Hung Like Mussolini, if there is any bigger message. That's certainly a strong title & with a cover showing men hanging upside down over a crowd & a back cover with a WWII firing squad I have to say you certainly have guts in presenting a controversial image.

PETE: I wanted to use the famous photograph of Italian dictator Mussolini being hung & Tim came up with the title as a joke, but I couldn't stop laughing & said it was perfect. The larger picture would be fighting against fascism specifically, but illegitimate authority in general. Iran, the Arab States & Russia were of big inspiration musically & philosophically on this particular album.

TIM: I just threw the album title out there since our graphic artist NecroSperm, who did the cover layout art, is a jockular humored kinda guy. & I always go for the cheap laughs. Anyways, this was after the founding drummer moved on but while we where all discussing what recording goals the band had for a death metal CD. He left the band with my mantra when writing for THERAPHOSA: "You want to make a shocking death metal album? Write one that's worth listening too. That's shocking!" So, his influence hasn't left the band.

AJ: Seeing your imagery I expected a typical black metal band, but just trading Satan imagery for war imagery, but I was quite surprised by how experimental your album is far from expectations.

TIM: I'm not going to get into the whole Satanic imagery or bloody gore imagery other bands do. Lyrically & ideally that's not THERAPHOSA. I've had projects in past that tried the gore & evil imagery stuff & it wasn't me or what art flows out. That stuff is fake to me. Not saying I don't believe in or respect other bands messages. What works for them is up to them, but for me history & current events have been pretty evil & bloody needlessly & THERAPHOSA reflects that attention needs to be on stopping the real horrors of reality if any change in the world will come from our messages in song.

AJ: It's welcomed hearing a metal band that takes their message seriously & are going for more than just shock tactics.

TIM: A lot of our overseas fans are in the war torn countries as citizens & serving as soldiers. So, I don't want to play down our audience's intellect since I know most of the world knows what a demon or dead body looks like. But, have us middle class & above really seen a man face a firing squad over a secret? Or, watched the people in a city or country take to the streets & regain control over a evil fascist regime? Anyway, to me that's scary stuff, way more intriguing creatively to me then an album about devils & virgin sacrifice would.

AJ: You have an interesting opening song with the mysterious title: "Adzhan". What's the meaning of this word?

PETE: "Adzhan" is an idea I had for about 6 years & I could never find a sample that could stay in key with a chord progression or riff until I ran into this sample, chopped it up a bit, & made it work perfectly. The idea was to take the Islamic Call to Prayer, which is the what Adzhan means, & to have a sample wailing while the rest of the band was grooving in an Arabic mode.

AJ: "Adzhan" certainly sets a mood of emotional discomfort for the album with the the Arabic echoing behind the thrashing guitars.

PETE: The song reminded my girlfriend of an epic film soundtrack that is set in the desert. That was pretty close to the image in my mind. I pictured a westernized Middle Eastern city like Dubai where you can here the Adzhan being sung from the minarets & mixing with the sounds of club music downtown. The song technically is only half of a proper Call to Prayer because the guitar solo & outro cut it off halfway through. It has no religious message to us, but rather creates a dope atmosphere. It has a cool East meets West vibe to it & we thought it would be a great beginning to our EP & our discography generally.

AJ: It certainly is an example of what you said Pete about not minding pushing your own instrument back in the mix for the betterment & uniqueness of the end result.

TIM: I didn't have any real writing or singing involvement. Pete handed me the master tracks to "Adzhan" he had been musing over in his studio. He tracked the slamming bass guitar track on my personal bass. Told me its meaning to him, it's back story musically as he mentioned before & said mix it as if it where your own. With me not having any of my own vocals to worry about in mix it gave me a chance to add my mark to the song in my second home of my man cave studio where Hung Like Mussolini was pretty well all mixed before being sent off to sound mastering house. So some of your discomfort could be guitars, or underlying reverb & chorus effects I slid in here & there to make "Adzhan" really pop out at the listener. It's the first track on Hung Like Mussolini & usually early in our live performance set list.

AJ: Yes, I do feel the push & pull mixture of those musical additions against the religious lyrics.

TIM: "Adzhan" is probably my favorite track to hear on this work we birthed together, & even a personal favorite live next to "The Revolting Blob."

AJ: Another track, "Big Paxton" is most unusual with its extended ending that moves out of thrashing guitars into an electronic keyboard break to a radio dial sound leading us to a 1930's jazz band, a European torch singer, a preacher & a church organ, while in the main part of the song comes the repeating lyrics of "lift it up". I kept listening to this repeatedly to hear all the parts & to find the big picture. What's the meaning of this song? Who is Big Paxton? Do I dare ask?

PETE: Big Paxton is Bill Paxton. "Big Paxton" is an oddball track in that it doesn't really conform to the overall narrative. It's about social rejects, in this case Bill Paxton's character on the HBO series Big Love, about people who have to hide who they are for fear of persecution in public.

AJ: Next to Italian dictators, Islam, World War II, an HBO tv series is certainly coming out of left field as a source of inspiration.

PETE: Victor came up with the idea in 2006 while he & I were in a band called JIHAD. This was during the same time that Tim & I were in SLI-LINC. We would watch Big Love together & anytime Bill Paxton would go to get busy with one of his wives we'd say "here comes Big Paxton!" The saying stuck & a new song I had written for JIHAD was named Big Paxton. The band JIHAD warped into FACES OF DEATH & "Big Paxton" was put into the vault until THERAPHOSA was formed. Then we brought it back & recorded some crazy samples to wrap up the track, mainly for dramatic effect. Samples & interludes like that weed out listeners with short attention spans. We think listening should be an experience & one that rocks. The Jazz & Soviet samples feature the only non original music on the album. They were there for the radio dialing effect & not necessarily for their content. I can play both samples on piano though, in case we got called out for being punks.

TIM: Being a fan of the now cancelled tv show & student of religion at one time, I insisted Pete & Victor try to re-track it for me just as a song to try to flesh out later or make a free internet download. But somehow "Big Paxton" married it's way into the final cut, so to speak. & for the record, not to brag, but I was raised in a partially German speaking household, learned to sing in several choirs, & Italian & Russian opera recordings where what I was given to learn to match my vocal range & breathing as a kid first learning to sing. So, yes, if need be Pete & I could pull the outro samples for "Big Paxton" off live ... or if ever cornered by haters in a European piano bar.

AJ: "Neda" has another mysterious name with the liner notes reading "intro vocals: asked to remain unknown for her safety in her homeland." Without compromising anyone's safety is there any more you can say about this mysterious singer & song sample, or at least the history behind obtaining the sample?

PETE: "Neda" is probably the most serious & angriest piece of music I've ever written. It is about & dedicated to Neda Agha Solton who was an Iranian student who got killed by a member of the Basij, Iran's secret police. This was during the 2009 uprising when the Presidential elections were seen as fraudulent & there were mass demonstrations by college students who demanded a recount. From reports gathered, Neda was walking from class by one of the demonstrations when a sniper shot her. Someone managed to catch all of it on their camera phone & it went viral instantly.

AJ: Besides the obvious anger we all feel of just the inhumanity of how the world treats each other, when you say it's the most serious & angriest piece of music you've written, I feel like there might even be something even more personal about this for you.

PETE: The bigger picture is I cannot remember a time before this event when, through the power of this new technology, video was shown in real time of what happens in an isolated & authoritarian country like Iran & what happens to their people. Instantly people could tell, later in the Arab Spring as well, what happens everyday in places like that to everyday people. It's absolutely heartbreaking & it boils my blood. I guess I felt a kinship with Neda since we were both 20-something music students & activists. She died so wrongfully & I knew that I had to write about it & would keep it low key as much as possible so it didn't look exploitive. The sample can be found if someone really really dug deep, but the teenage girl who sang it doesn't need an association with an American metal band. We care about her too much to flaunt her for publicity ... although she is an amazing singer! She was loosely singing in the key of B Minor, which is what the opening section is in. "Adzhan" was written backwards from the key that the sample was in, whereas "Neda" was already written years before the sample was added. So we had to find a sample that was already in an established key & that's way trickier. The intro drums were tracked in 2010 & the piano in 2013. I got to use my free Wurlitzer piano for only one song & it was the intro to "Neda". You can't get that sound from a synthesizer.

TIM: I can't say it better then Pete. He had this song idea & we had a mutual rage for the senseless death of innocents. So, we make our songs with equal emotion, empathy, & try to convey that to a listener to spark a few mental questions, if not a little emotion, is an accepted result for me from a fellow human hearing it.

AJ: I really appreciate you sharing these personal insights with me. I can't speak for anyone else, but I certainly came away from listening to your album with an emotional response & thus here we are talking. My last question is a simple one in comparison. What's next for THERAPHOSA?

PETE: We have about one third of our second album recorded & over half of it written. We'd like to tour more extensively & are looking into that. Scheduling & controlling everything is easier as a 2 piece, but is more laborious so we're working on those plans.

TIM: Total global domination By THERAPHOSA or world peace, your move world, your move ... But, real talk thanks for having us!

PETE: Thank You for obviously truly listening to CD instead of generic questions. Thank you for that pleasure as well!

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