Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mammoth Grinder interview

It's been quite a while since I've posted an interview, and I've had nothing else to talk about lately so I figure I'll throw this up. Following is the interview that I did with Chris of the Texas doom juggernaut Mammoth Grinder. You guys should all know how I feel about this band, I've raved on endlessly all year about them. Their MLP "Extinction Of Humanity" is one of this years best releases, hands down, and If you haven't heard it yet I feel sorry for you. This appeared in issue #3 of Downsided. I still have a few copies of that issue if you want one. Hit me up here if so. It's got interviews with Nomos, Rort, Abraxis, Shock Value and Downpresser aswell.

Another raging band to emerge from Texas in the last few years, Mammoth Grinder play meaner than fuck, raging bellowcore. Chris Ulsh sounds more akin to that of a T-Rex stomping over a human carcass than a hardcore vocalist, and the music suits it all perfectly. Following is an interview I did with Chris recently. Everyone should check this band out.

So you guys have a new album, ‘Extinction Of Humanity’ coming out soon with Cyclopean Records. I’ve heard the tracks posted on the myspace. Really good. What’s the round up with the LP? Songs? Running time etc?
I am definitely more happy with it than anything else we've released. 7 songs, a little bit over 21 minutes overall. It's got a way different vibe and is much more reflective of what I like and listen to. The songs have an early Swedish death metal influence but the recording itself is more punk friendly, very noisy similar to the Nihilist demos or some of the Carnage recordings since we decided to record to tape this time. The first time we recorded it, we got kicked out of the room we were trying to record in and had to move our whole setup around twice. Then after everything was done and we were mixing, the tape machine broke and we had to completely re-record somewhere else. The only other place that we could finish it in time used bigger tape and that was significantly more expensive. Lots of bullshit and setbacks for this recording and I don't think we would have been able to get what we wanted out of it if it wasn't for Jason Tarpey, he was super helpful in making sure everything could still happen. The good thing about redoing it though was that we got to change some stuff and add an extra instrumental track.

The artwork for ‘EOH’ looks great. Who handled it? Who’s the dude/dudette?
Joe Petagno, he did all of the Motorhead artwork and more recently Saviours and Mind Eraser.

It’s a one sided LP. What’s the deal with that? Why go with that format? Why not release just a 7” or 10” or something like that?
It's two sided, 4 songs on one side and 3 on the other. We had originally planned for a 7" but wanted to do something a little bigger since we were putting so much into the artwork. Then I wrote a couple more songs and we decided a 12" would be best. The last 7" was so crammed, it's nice to have some extra space on it and be able to press it at a louder speed this time.

With the ‘No Results’ 7” and the ‘Rage And Ruin’ LP there was a distinct duel vocal thing going on but one of you were definitely handling more of it. The new stuff from what I can hear only really has the one vocal track, coming all from the dude who handled less with the past releases. Does that make sense? Am I hearing right? What’s going on there? Why the change? Which Chris does what? There’s certainly a higher more standard hardcore snarl going on and a more dirged out metal guy too.
On those two records I did most of the vocals and Chris Camp did the back up stuff. My vocals sound a bit different on the new recordings but it's still just me. No back ups or anything on the new record.

While I’m not too learned about the demo, I know that the LP and the 7” both only came out early this year. First the 7” then the LP. The liner notes with the LP though credit it as being recorded as early as 2007, before the 7”. Why did only see a release this year? And after the ep?
It's actually the other way around with the LP and 7". I recorded the demo by myself while I lived in Tennessee just so I could show Brian back home in Texas some new ideas I had. A friend of ours wanted to release it on tape so it kind of unofficially became our demo. We changed a couple parts and rerecorded them with some other songs that summer in 2007, then went back to finish it up and record vocals in December. We burned CDs of that recording as a demo type thing to sell on tour that winter so that we would have songs for people to hear while we were playing out of Texas. When we got back home our friend Matt wanted to start a label and release it as an LP to get it going. The record came out in May 2008, we did a tour and then recorded the 7" when we got home, and then Inkblot released it later that year in December.

So when did you guys form? 2007? 2006? How?
I guess you could say 2006 because that's when I first started with Brian but the three of us didn't get around to playing and trying to make stuff happen until I moved back to Texas in 2007.

Not knowing if you hItalicave to really weather many questions regarding the line up, I’ll just ask... why only a three piece? The idea certainly doesn’t hinder you guys on disc in any way. Does it effect the live performance?
There isn't anything we've recorded that we can't do live yet I don't think. I'm really specific about all the guitar stuff and it's kind of weird and impersonal when someone else sings lyrics they didn't write, so it's worked out nicely as a three piece so far. The only downside is that it's kind of hard to regulate when people are getting weird in the front, running into the drums and falling on our shit. A lot of times when we play on the floor, people run into the mic and I've had a tooth chipped and some other stuff.

What is the average Mammoth Grinder gig like? Do kids get loose? Are they confused of what to make of a three piece? I’ve seen shows where kids had o idea what the fuck was going on when watching a three piece, but the back cover of the 7” looks pretty hectic.
Haha, I think we were playing a cover when that picture was taken so that might explain it.

With past releases I have noticed quite a bit of the gang style group vocal stuff. Do kids find it tricky with the group vocals in a live environment? Do they snatch the mic from the stand? Has there been any problems or funny stories?
They are all over the first LP but no where to be found on anything else. Something we tried but never ended up writing into anything else after that. No one really sings along but we also haven't played any songs from that record in a while so I'm not sure if anyone knows it well enough to sing along.

The new stuff seems to lack the gang vox? Conscience decision? Why? Gang vox equals mosh bands for me. You guys don’t seem like a mosh band.
I know what you mean but the gang vocal parts we had don't really sound like that. I always liked the gang vocals in the earlier hardcore bands and more recently stuff like Cut The Shit, even some Look Back and Laugh songs. That was more or less what we wanted it to sound like. I guess it just comes with finding the sound you like best and we haven't had the urge to write them in to anything new. I wrote that LP when I was 18 and never intended for it to be officially released so there's a lot of stuff I wish I could have done differently. There are people that like it though and I'm thankful that Matt wanted to release it since it's probably the only thing people have to hear from us besides the 7", which is in the same vein as the full length. Although I wouldn't want people to use it as a reference point for what we sound like or what is to come in the future, we have a better idea of what we want to do with the band now because of it.

So as I said, the LP is coming out on Cyclopean, Tarpey’s new joint. How’d that hook up come? I guess I can assume the obvious Iron Age/Austin TX connections? He’s described it as “an eldritch beast trampling mankind”. Suitable?
I play guitar in Alex's other band (Hatred Surge- Ed) and that band played and travelled a little bit with Iron Age so I got to know most of them that way, Mammoth Grinder has also played quite a bit with Iron Age as well. Even though Jason hadn't released anything since that Burden of Empire 7", I asked him if he'd be interested since I thought he would be into the newer stuff we were writing and it turned out he was trying to get the label thing back up again so it all worked out pretty well. And I'd say that's a pretty suitable description.

You guys seem to have a history of releasing stuff on very small labels. Was that the idea? Or did you just go with whatever came along?
We just went with it. Depleted Resource was just starting out and so were we so teaming up kind of helped get both our names out in the open. Inkblot had been releasing more and more and on tour I'd see records that they'd released in stores all across the country. I played in a band for a couple months that did a record with them so I got in touch about our 7" and then the rest is history.

What’s the scene like in Austin? So many good things seem to come from there. I’ve read in the past that it can be a bit of a shithole? How does such a shithole go at fueling such a good music scene? It must help.
Austin is doing it right now for sure. Aside from our record, Hatred Surge, Iron Age, and Sacred Shock all released LPs in the past month or so and they all rip. Total Abuse put out a record earlier this year that I like a lot and just recorded another one. Power Trip from Dallas a couple hours away just recorded a new 7" that I got to hear the other day when we played with them and it rips as well. Texas is really exciting right now. As far as being a shithole, I'm not so sure about that because I love living here. There's tons of deep V-necked freaks that are texting each other about their bicycles all day but I'm never at coffee shops or any of that so I don't see a lot of it. Lots of good places to eat and good shows coming through on the reg. There's something to complain about anywhere you live but I really like it here a lot.

You guys also have another release planned, a split with Legion from Alabama. How did you guys all get together? Who’s idea was it for a split? What can we expect from the record? Who is releasing it etc?
I met Jeff and Kayhan from Legion when we toured a bit with Die Young, since they have been playing in that band on tour for a while. They told us about the other band they had and we ended up playing a bunch with them on the next tour we did. Our side of the split was written about a year ago, before Extinction of Humanity, and is a pretty good transition between the 7" and Extinction. We recorded it in the same session as EOH so there is kind of a similar feel but the songs on the split are different enough to not fit on that record I think. I'm planning to release it myself on a label called Nuclear Solution. I'm not sure if I'll have enough time to continue releasing stuff but it's something I've wanted to do for a while so we'll see how it goes.

You’re also about to embark on a tour with those guys. What places are you hitting up? What do you expect? How well do you find kids from out of town recognize you guys? Have you guys toured extensively before this?
We just got back from that actually. That was the 6th tour we've done and it didn't go as well as I thought but we all had a lot of fun. We stayed mostly in the south and didn't have anything new to offer besides one shirt design so I think that might have had something to do with it. We were also racing around trying to make sure that everything was finished with the record before we left so it was hard to line up a tour like we usually do.

I find it really hard to categorize you guys specifically. I don’t need to elaborate... you know what’s going on. There’s so much going on sound wise... crust stuff, straight up hardcore, sludge, Sabbath riffs, doom, metal. And it’s all pulled off so well. When the band was put together what was the idea for the sound?
I was like 17 and just messing around in weird low tunings, playing faster punk parts into low slower stuff. Then over time everything was written in that same vein more or less, up until this upcoming LP and split. When the No Results 7" came out, I was writing in that style just because that was what we sounded like, not because that's what I jam the most at home or what I like playing the most. It's a good record but there are some things I would change if I had to do it again. I think that is one of the main reasons we got so sick of playing older songs and don't really play them anymore. Now at least I feel like I could play a lot of our newer stuff for a long time and not get as tired of it, mainly because it seems more thought out and put together to me. But it's all for a reason, this is the first band I have ever been in trying to write so I have been just kind of learning more with each release.

Is there a specific driving force behind the group? Like a member? Who writes the material? Is it exclusive? I suppose being a three piece keeps it a little more low key, for lack of a better word?
Usually I have the song pretty much completely written and I'll show it to Brian and he'll make some suggestions and add some things on the drums.

The cover photo for the 7”... where did that come from? I’m assuming some war literature? Elaborate?
Our friend Faiza found that picture. I'm not sure where but it is a solider from WWII that had a grenade blow up in his face I think. It's a little hard to see but he's putting his fingers in the whole where his nose used to be.

Lyrics... they seem to revolve around a seemingly tried and true formula. Dark themes, retrospective and introspective. What’s some of the specific motivation behind the words? Songs like ‘Two More Classes Until Blackout Weekend’ seem aimed at everyday working life etc? A demo titled ‘Goes To College’? Drunken youth themes?
I just started going to this university when I wrote that so besides the obvious Descendents reference, I just wrote about all the whack shit I would see. Nothing like the lyrics for the newer recordings but at that point it just worked for me writing about the things I would see.

Who writes the lyrics? Being that there is a duel vocal thing going on? Do you guys work on songs together? Or individually on certain songs?
Mostly me but Brian helped write some on the first LP.

‘God Is Stuck In A Black Hole’ is sheer brilliance in musicianship. Easily one of the best songs I have ever heard. That riff. Fuck. So slow and heavy. The lyric notes with the LP are reasonably obvious as is the title. Do you guys take an active approach in anti-religion/christ ideals? Is it any kind of an issue with you guys as individuals or as a band? It seems so popular these days to be ‘no god’.
Haha, that phrase was actually something that a homeless person walked up to Brian and said. We maybe wouldn't have centered the song around that had we known it would be released on record but the title seems fitting for the song at least. I think it was actually the first song we had. We had the title first and then wrote the lyrics if I can remember correctly, not necessarily because it's a subject we are interested in. There aren't any other songs about religion because I don't care about it enough to want to write about it, even about how stupid it can be. Putting effort into hating it is the same to me as putting effort into trying to promote it.

What’s up next for the band? I can only hope lots more? Tours? Releases? Come to Australia!
We are leaving in a week to do a full US tour with Hatred Surge, then two days after we get back from that we're heading out with Iron Age and Power Trip to play Sound And Fury, as well as a couple other shows in the area. The new 12" on Cyclopean should be out by the US tour and hopefully the split with Legion will be available at Sound And Fury. Australia would be sick. I have never left the continent but hopefully we can get over there sometime soon.

Thanks ;


CITIZEN said...


Anonymous said...

O_O why. hasn't. anyone. else. commented on this-- godly stuff.

Jeffery Schmitz said...

Saw them last night they ruled