So James Monteith, intrepid TesseracT guitarist and Thrash Hits columnist found himself in Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest music festival again. He didn’t puke, but he did drink tequila, see a load of cool bands and hang out with loads of cool people. Cool. He’s written about it AND answered a question from the postbag. Whoop.
After another eventful SXSW, I thought, “It’s time to write another column.” If you read my SXSW column last year (or have seen the countless comments referring to the incident), you may be aware of my minor vomit spillage on Thrash Hits Editor, Raz’s shoes in the Dirty Dog bar. As one who enjoys a little nostalgia, the temptation to relive the moment in the same venue at the Metal Hammer showcase, standing in the same spot as last year, was overwhelming.
There was even the opportunity to up the stakes and target the editors of Rock Sound and Metal Hammer. I had one clear shot to take them both down in partially-digested meat and booze cocktail whilst watching The Interbeing, but disappointingly my alcohol consumption rate and stomach processing weren’t quite optimised for a full-steam attack at that time. SXSW is about more than puking on the media, however, it’s also music, and with around 1800 acts performing across the whole of Austin, there’s always something to see. Here are some of my highlights…
Travelling with Basick Records’ Barley, we landed on Wednesday evening and headed straight to the Metal Sucks showcase for some ear bleeding and were greeted by Black Tusk who quickly woke us out of our post-long-haul flight daze.
The first highlight of SXSW for me, however was Intronaut. Not sure whether it was partly due to having not been to bed for 24 hours, but this band’s set somehow invoked a real feeling of euphoria; the atmosphere they created was like something I’ve not felt from a live band in a long time. Everyone needs to see this band at some point in their lives.
Thursday kicked off with the Sumerian showcase and Scale The Summit, who are another band pushing the whole instrumental prog thing, and possibly one of the most technically competent and tastefully restrained ones at that. With most of the emphasis on the layers of instrumentation, the occasional bursts of technicality really stand out as an exciting feature and create a huge dynamic range to their wall of sound.
They were followed by Aussies, Dead Letter Circus, who much like Karnivool, have created their own style of progressive rock, fusing exciting arrangements with gripping, melodic hooks. If any prog-influenced bands have a chance of breaking into the mainstream, these guys are very strong contenders.
The evening’s entertainment was split between the Sumerian and Metal Hammer showcases and kicked off for me with Denmark’s The Interbeing. I have a soft spot for these guys, as they got TesseracT on a bill in Copenhagen around four years ago, back when we booked our own tours. They killed it then and they certainly did the same at SXSW. They were followed by black jazz band, Shining, who confused the hell out of me to be honest, but it was heavy and completely bonkers, and all the industry types thought it was the best thing ever, so I went along with it.
After some balls-out rock n’ roll attitude, instrument smashing and some beautiful use of the C-word from The Defiled, I headed over to see Born Of Osiris. Out of the whole early tech-death-whateveritscalled-core scene, these guys really are top of the pack. A ridiculously tight band, highly accomplished players, and great riffs. What more could you ask for?
Not much… although by this time I was hammered, so I wanted party music. What better than Skindred? They basically turned the Dirty Dog bar into a riot, and I had so much fun I completely forgot so find Raz and his shiny white footwear. Next year, Raz. Next year.
Friday was really about one band for me. Glass Cloud. Made up of guitarist Josh Travis from The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, the ex singer from Of Mice and Men and a killer rhythm section, they totally destroyed the Lucky 17 Bar on Friday afternoon. It was the Equal Vision label showcase, so they stood out ridiculously on a bill of crabbing kiddycore-by-numbers bands. Josh’s guitar tone alone should have made them all pack up and go home. The riffing was earth shatteringly monstrous, and his clever use of stereo panning made it sound like there was a whole army of joshes pounding away. Although there are obviously similarities with Danza in the guitars, the overall sound of this band is highly accessible. Songwriting has clearly been a primary focus and this shows, as I found myself humming along to hooks in songs that I’d never heard before. This gig also had a free bar, and if I was a religious man, I’d have seen that as a sign that great things are to come for these guys. If there’s one band you check out after reading this, make sure it’s this one.
By this point, the intellectual side of my brain had been over stimulated, so I need something fun and unchallenging… what better than Emmure? I know these guys all look like the stray litter of Fred Durst, but they have some seriously good riffs and the band are groovy as hell. After pulling a load of nu-skool nu-metal moves for thirty minutes, I was stuck for where to go next. Barley went off to jizz over Scale The Summit again and a bunch of sophisticated metal bands at the Prosthetic showcase, and Raz was at some doom thing, but I didn’t fancy either. Then Aaron (from Standby Records) got a tip off that Skrillex was playing around the corner.
I’ve followed dubstep on and off over the years and used to frequent the DMZ night in Brixton in my more youthful days, so I figured it’d be worth seeing what this commercial American product of the South London scene was all about. I have to say, in my drunken stupor it ruled! It was loud energetic and fun. There wasn’t much of the traditional destroy-your-guts sub-bass going on, but there was a lots of mid-range punch, which I guess is partly the key to its commercial success. I enjoyed it, so there.
I then met up with Barley, Vince from Metal Sucks, Frank from Metal Injection and the guys from Sumerian, [STOP NAME-DROPPING, JAMES! - Raz] and ended up drinking tequila in the back of Chelsea Grin’s trailer, before dancing to NWA in the street like complete reprobates.
After three days of metal, Barley and I were pretty much finished, so we found a chilled blues bar and relaxed – mellow tones, pentatonic shred and husky vocals were just want we needed, and we accidently made another discovery – The Peterson Brothers. Basically this band started playing some very sophisticated funked up blues mixing up solid, groovy riffs, uber tight and punchy slap bass lines, tasteful and heartfelt guitar solos, and load of soul; we were loving it. We then discovered that these boys were 13 and 15! We were convinced they had to be either Bo Didley and John Lee Hooker’s grandkids. Turns out they’re not though – they’re just stupidly talented. After getting over my feelings of guitar inadequacy, it was time to go home.
It’s all a bit of a blur, but it was an amazing few days! Listen to Glass Cloud.
Questions on guitar nerdery, TesseracT news and how James keeps his hair so bautiful to Editor@ThrashHits.com, and we’ll pick a couple out for next time. From last week’s postbag:
Q) I recently got a custom guitar with BKP Aftermaths, I LOVE THEM. So on my Ibanez 7-string I’m replacing the EMG 707 I put in it (big mistake) with either an aftermath or a Lundgren M7. The stuff I play is kind of similar to TesseracT, glassy cleans and tightish deep rhythm stuff. I noticed you’re getting an Aftermath on your custom (column says neck, specs say Bridge?), so which would you suggest I put in the bridge? Macauley, Australia
A) For the glassy, clean sound, active pickups are actually the best as they’re really bright, so your 707s would sound great in the bridge for that purpose. However, I’m guessing you’ll want to be riffing too, and as you imply, the 707s aren’t the best for that. Both the Aftermath and the M7 are great for tight, heavy rhythm guitar. I actually have the M7 on my stock RGD, and it’s super hot, so you can get really crunchy sounds without all that much gain. It’s also really weighty in the midrange, so cuts through really well. The Aftermath isn’t as hot, so you need to turn the gain up a bit to get the same level of distortion, but it’s possibly a little tighter than the M7. The aftermath also has a little peak around the higher mids, which gives a really nice top end when playing (forgive me) ‘djenty’ chords. This is something you can add to the tone of the M7 with an EQ pedal though if you wish.
Basically both pickups will sound excellent and it’s all a matter of taste, although if you want high output, go for the M7. If you want something a little tighter and controlled, go for the Aftermath.
If you’ve got any questions for James, you can either leave them in a comment below or email them to Djently@ThrashHits.com.