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returntothepit >> discuss >> 8/1 - Black Pyramid, Presley [LAST SHOW EVER], The Modern Voice, Easter Bloodhounds @ O'Briens in Allston by RichHorror on Jun 26,2009 12:56am
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: post by RichHorror at 2009-08-01 15:12:17
BLACK PYRAMID

...And The Gods Made Doom
by Matt Smith

Anyone who knows me or reads my reviews is aware of my worshipful tendencies toward Northampton's Black Pyramid. What else can I say about them without sounding like an über-nerd fan boy, so I will let the interview do the talking, or let the guys from Black Pyramid, guitarist/vocalist Andy Beresky, bassist Gein, and drummer Clay Neely, do the answering to my vast array of questions at the Beresky homestead in Northampton as they geared up for their CD release show that night at a club called The Eleven's right down the street. (How was that for a run-on sentence?)

GASP: Okay, you guys already know how much I love the album by the review I wrote in the last issue of and by my verbal praises, and I have to say I love the production of the album. This was recorded at Black Coffee Sound Studios, so tell me about your studio, Clay.

Clay: It's just a small scale facility where I've run a recording studio for the last four years and it's mainly been local business. I worked under Matt Washburn for about a year just apprenticing before I moved up here in 2005 and started it, but day to day it is what it is, it's cool.

GASP: It's right in Northampton?

Clay: It's outside of Northampton, like 15 minutes from here.

GASP: What town?

Clay: Wlliamsburg.

GASP: So it's close to Northampton, cool! I love the recording, I think the balance is perfect between the guitars, bass, drums, vocals, it just sounds awesome.

Clay: Well, a lot of the credit has to go to Matt (Washburn) who mixed it. I mean, I engineered it and took care of the meat and potatoes of it and that shine that everyone is talking about is a direct result of him. He only spent two days on it so he had to do the whole thing...

Andy: I thought he spent three total?

Clay: No, he was here three days but he spent two days working on it...

Andy: Yeah, and the other day he was just hanging out.

Clay: He rushed in and he did it on my monitors using all my outboard gear and my plug ins and he did a king hell job, he's really the guy to thank for that.

GASP: You said you worked with Matt before?

Clay: He was my mentor, and I worked under him as an apprentice for like a year in Atlanta. I think the most memorable session was when Mastodon recorded "The Bit" for the Melvins tribute album and that was in like 2004 so that was like right when Leviathan was happening and they were just starting to get really big and they still go to Matt for pre-production and shit.

Andy: He did their edits right?

Clay: Yeah and he redid their first album that Relapse just did...

Andy: Oh, the Lifesblood thing...

Clay: Yeah

GASP: Cool! Excellent, that's great, having seen you guys live so many times and to finally hear the album I have to say it really captured the live sound because it's the kind of shit where I can like totally crank it in the car or wherever and it sounds fucking great!

Andy: Yeah, I think it's got a production but I don't think it's like super or overproduced.

GASP: Yeah, to me it's just the right amount of production, I hate when albums sound too glossy or processed, you know what I mean?

Clay: Yeah, loud without being too "loud".

GASP: Yeah, exactly. The other thing I really love is the cover art, was that your concept because to me I look at it and I think of a Tarot Card type of illustration feeling. It's got a cool almost abstract Tarot Card look to it. So what was the concept behind it?

Andy: Well, that's interesting, well, Mike Warble, he had talked to us and he is this guy who is a fan and he had done artwork and he had done some stuff that was inspired by different bands and he was like "oh, check this out, this was inspired by listening to the Melvins" so when it was time to do the artwork, me and Clay were talking and saying Mike could do a really good job. And it was funny because at first we met with him and we discussed it and everything and we just said "yeah, go ahead and do whatever you want and he gave us like a first draft and we were kinda like "ehhhh, that's not what we really wanted" and we felt kinda bad...

Clay: Yeah, but that was the first time he had ever ventured to do anything like that on that kind of scale. He's not conventional in the slightest, not even in modern art because he's more rooted in late 19th Century theory...

Andy: Like Art Deco, and he's got like a big Klimt influence, you can tell with his stuff, like he's probably into some of the symbolese(?) stuff like I am. But the big thing was we just gave him a little bit of direction after that and we're like "just do something a little darker and put those skulls in it" and he was putting a lot of stuff with skulls around it and we were kind of disappointed that he didn't put any skulls in it. But we said we kind of dig your fairy art too and he was like "oh, okay you want it a little more like the fairy art?" and we were like "no just a little darker, everything you do combine it and make it dark, like a dark concept" and he delivered.

Clay: It's still full of color

GASP: So basically it was you telling him to listen to the album and come up with the idea for the cover art.

Clay: For the most part, I mean he comes from different backgrounds at the same time they're obviously influenced by the same thing and he's into this style of music which helps too. He was genuinely interested in the band which obviously helped us and ultimately he put it to paper. And it was also a piece where we needed something for the back cover and we just used parts of the cover for the inlay art and the lyrics was just a sepia version. We can use it as a pattern, and the record company is printing up t-shirts in full-color and we're gonna get a cut of those and it's gonna look great.

Gein: Myra (Gein's wife) designed the the CD layout and was able to take the main artwork and use elements to do the inside and the back but it's all Warble's.

GASP: Yeah, I really like the layout.

Andy: So hopefully he'll get repeat business from bands and shit.

GASP: Yeah. What's the inspiration for some of the lyrics? I mean I get this idea from your lyrics that you're very inspired by books that you read.

Andy: Oh definitely, I start with a line and then I have a vocal melody in my head and it's the first thing that goes over it that really sticks and if it sticks in my head then it will stick in other people's heads too. So I start with that and then I try to make it into a story from one line and then everything else just goes around it. But a lot of them come from, the ones that have that first line, then I develop it around a book idea. But the thing is it's not exactly like a book, and I take a story from the book and kind of twist it in my own way. So I'm not telling the story exactly like the book it's kind of my interpretation of it. When I was a kid I would read myths like Arthurian legends and every one tells it in a different way. I mean you can read like five versions of Beowulf and they're all a little different. So that's what it is, me kind of reinterpreting some of my favorite stories and changing them around a little and making them a little different or make them fit into a context of a song. Try to tell a story with three verses or three verses and a chorus. But a lot of it comes from books, like "Worm Ouroborous" comes from a book by Edison and it influenced Tolkien and all those guys. "Cauldron Born" that comes from Welsh mythology. There was a book, what was the name of that guy?

Gein: L. Ron Hubbard (laughs)

Andy: It wasn't L. Ron Hubbard, but that's where the lyrics come from. But other ones are completely made up like "Visions of Gehenna" and "Mirror Messiah", those are just...

GASP: Stream of conscious, literary fantasy...

Andy: Yeah, like stories.

GASP: Cool. One song in particular I am interested in knowing about the inspiration behind is "Wintermute". It seems like there's something more personal going on within that song.

Andy: There is and there isn't. It's another one I'm reinterpreting, it's from William Gibson's "Neuromancer", it's science fiction. The A.I. doesn't feel complete and he's trying to join with another computer to be a complete being so I was trying to write that from his perspective of not a computer but as real person trying to connect with someone else and trying to be a real person instead of half a person. I think it works as well with a person as it does with a computer.

GASP: I think so. I like that idea of reinterpreting books or stories. A lot of metal bands deal with death topics, you know like the afterlife. I was wondering what your beliefs are on the afterlife?

Gein: I guess I would be a Nihilist, I don't believe in anything, no kind of life after death, you're dead, that's it. It's all about entropy.

GASP: So you think it's like sleeping without dreaming?

Gein: Just not existing any more.

Andy: I'm Agnostic, I don't think you can know one way or another. I don't have enough data, I still consider myself a spiritual person but just not religious and I don't necessarily believe in a supreme being. Maybe with all that quantum stuff there's an order of the Universe we don't understand but it's hard to believe in that when there's no concrete proof and it's all theoretical. The theories are intriguing but I'm skeptical because I'm naturally skeptical of things.

GASP: I hear you. How about you Clay?

Clay: I've always joked around and said Pascal's Wager, which is basically you have more to gain from believing in God than not because it's like if you're right then awesome, but if you don't believe in God there's no loss. But at the same time it's just dismissed as juvenile because of all the different deities and various possibilities of organized religion and people just don't give it any credit. I really don't think about it honestly.

GASP: Do you guys have any Philosophy or Religion you follow?

Andy: I like Blake's theory that if you don't create your own vision of the Universe and the way things work then you're damned or doomed to follow some one else's. But you know I haven't completely figured out my theory of how the Universe works but I'm kind of working on it and I think that's what music helps you work on.

Gein: I don't think there's any meaning or purpose to anything. (everybody laughs) You get 80-85 years you know what I mean? There's no grand design or predestined thing I feel I have to do. Just do what I want to do.

GASP: As Jim Morrison said "I'm gonna have my fun before the whole shithouse goes up in flames". How about you Clay?

Clay: Basically it's your own personal philosophies dictate the way you behave and act in the world and it's your own personal responsibility not to be a douchebag, there you go, that's about as deep as I get. When I was a kid I went to a to a Baptist Church and the Sunday School teacher got there late and when she got there she said her car wouldn't start because it was the devil working through the cold elements to keep her from getting to church to teach us. And I was like "really?" (laughs)

GASP: From my perspective I was raised believing that if you didn't believe in Jesus and the bible you would go to hell and if you listened to Heavy Metal it was Satan leading you away from God and I just couldn't deal with that any more and ever since then I've been formulating my own ideas and abandoned Christianity, anyway, I'm just sharing my thoughts. (laughs) What was your inspiration to play your instruments?

Andy: Oh, I know that. When I was young, before I was five, I was really into Classical music, and I started playing piano when I was like five and I made my parents take me to symphony stuff, I was really into music. But when I was five the only thing I heard that wasn't Classical was my Dad's Folk records, and The Beatles, I liked, you know, I could sing along to Yellow Submarine. But I didn't understand electric guitar and the first time I got into that was when I heard Queen, because my Dad had given me a Queen record and was like "you might like this, it's got some Classical stuff on it" and I was like okay. And then I'm listening to it and I hear that electric guitar and it's orchestrated and I was like "whoa, what is that?" and the first time it really stood out for me. And after that I was bugging them to get me an electric guitar but i didn't get one until I was like 16 or 17. It was kind of messed up because I was forced to go to private school with the condition that when I was 13 they would buy me an electric guitar. So when I was 13 or 14 and they didn't buy me the guitar I was like, this is bullshit and I didn't go any more and then they finally bought it for me when I was like 17 I think. They were like "we got you that electric guitar now", but it was definitely Queen, Brian May. I mean I heard Metal later and I had a cousin who was really into Dio and I was into Def Leppard when I was young and when I heard Guns n Roses that was big, but Queen was the first one.

Clay: Kinda the same goes for me, you just get started on music and you tend to like it more than other people and you start to hold music in a higher regard growing up more than some people do and you're getting your first turntable when you're three and stuff and you're asking for music because that's what you like hearing and you just go from there. But as far as first time wanting to play anything I can't even really think about it and the reason you want to play something is so you can actually be a part of what you are hearing because you knew that what they were doing was as good as anything you felt and if the closest you can get to it is playing the guitar then that's what you do. I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none, I can do a little bit of everything, I'm not a virtuoso, you know?

GASP: From my perspective you're damn close to that on the drums.

Clay: (snorts) Thanks (everybody laughs)

Clay: Well, it's just fun and that's the reason I got into it and that's why I got into recording. Like Nietzsche said "in music the passions enjoy themselves" and you just sit around being creative and there's far worse things you can be doing. So my parents just said "go for it".

GASP: So when did you get your first drum set?

Clay: Not until I was like 14 and I bought it from this recovering coke addict (laughs) it was like this huge fuckin' Yamaha eight piece set with tons of awesome hardware and Paiste crashes and shit and I got it like for $200, I worked all summer. It had big concert toms, it looked ridiculous! Plus, lines were cut on it so that gave it an instant coolness and street cred. (laughs) It was the last instrument I really got, I had guitars and basses and pianos and keyboards but the drums were like I could not wait to finally get them.

GASP: And that became your instrument of choice after that?

Clay: For the most part. In general it's like with most bands there's a ton of drummers out there who play guitar to a pretty good degree but there's always a need for a drummer and luckily you get in where you fit in. Because everyone's a guitar player and I really enjoy what I do.

GASP: Cool. How about you Gein?

Gein: I guess having an older brother got me into stuff earlier, so in elementary school the first record I remember getting was Highway to Hell and around that time it was like Twisted Sister, what ever was around during the early 80's. As far as playing music, it was probably seeing the (Iron Maiden) "Live After Death" video, my friend and I used to rent it from this video store every chance we could get. Probably twelve or fifteen years later I ended up living in the town with the video store I used to rent the video from and I went into the video store and I found that video and I said to the guy at the store, "will you sell this to me?" and they checked to see if any one had rented it recently and they checked the computer and I was the last one to rent it in like 1988 or whatever. (everybody laughs) So the guy sold it to me for like $5.

GASP: Nice!

Gein: That's what inspired to me start playing.

GASP: What was the first instrument you played?

Gein: I started right off on bass when I was like 12, then guitar when I was like 14 and drums was way later, probably when I was like 20. That's because the band I was in needed a drummer and the music was really easy.

GASP: Cool. Do you guys have any ideas or goals for Black Pyramid for the next few years?

Andy: I'd like to get another album recorded, play a lot of shows, it's tough, I mean we kind of play it by ear. We're in a position where we're kind of like, constantly in limbo and the best thing we can do is write and put out as much material and hope people take notice. I mean, we're at the point where there are some people taking notice but we're not financially self-sufficient.

Clay: A band like Hackman broke up simply because they couldn't afford to stay together, they were a killer band and they had to call it a day because they can't afford to be a band.

Andy: Well, that was part of it, yeah...

Clay: It should never have to be at that point but I mean it's not that you're more cautious or anything and you're not going to do any more shows, but what's important for us is we like writing songs and we can play shows, whatever it's fine with us but we get the most enjoyment from writing new stuff.

GASP: And you have the freedom within your personal lives where you can check with the other band members to see if they can play a show, where if you have too many responsibilities it puts a damper on the band.

Clay: I'm being optimistic when I'm saying within the next year and a half we should be doing a little bit better and we can be more bravado about it. It's just making sure we can release two albums that people can dig. That is pretty much where we're at and from that we'll take it from that point.

Andy: I mean if we get the opportunity where we can tour and we're not gonna go broke and be eating dirt and bugs then that's great but we're gonna have to take that by ear and were not planning it, if it shows, we're planning to do a little bit of touring and hope it works. People are like "come out to the West Coast" and we're like "yeeeah, we wish we could" and "come to Europe" and it's like find someone to bring us over and we'll do it. So right now we're gonna focus on writing.

Clay: We can do short jags up and down the East Coast and the mid-West but I think our best bet is to stay on top of what we're doing with regard to writing.

GASP: Yeah. Are there ay bands you would love to tour with?

Andy: High On Fire, YOB

GASP: Yeah, YOB I finally heard that album, it kicks ass!

Andy: It's great huh? Mike sent me a copy. Palace (Palace in Wonderland, Andy's previous band) opened for them, Mike and the guys were really nice and we reconnected recently and we've been talking a lot online. I sent him our album and he sent me his.

GASP: Cool! I just saw the Anvil movie recently and I was wondering if you guys ever see yourselves doing something like that?

Andy: Not if there's a camera around (everybody laughs)

Clay: I prefer obscurity over that. (laughs)

Andy: Good for them though man, I'm sure it's gonna boost their record sales, they deserve it.

GASP: Yeah, and they're opening for AC/DC now. I have to be honest with you, I saw that movie and by the end I was depressed. (laughs)

Clay: Yeah, the empathy is totally there but at the same time you're like wow, that's rough. Good for them, man.

GASP: Gein, do you see yourself doing the same shit 20 years from now?

Clay: Well he's not gonna look any different. (everyone laughs) Gein is the eye candy in the band. (more laughter)

Gein: I can't picture myself NOT playing music.

Andy: Yeah, totally, I'm sure I'll still be playing.

Clay: It's hard to even wrap your mind around a reason why you would stop playing music, or something you love.

Andy: It's like stopping breathing, I could never do it. Maybe if I lost both my hands...

Clay: I was just gonna say if I lost any appendages I would be the best connoisieur and best record collector or try and work at a studio, you know anything that would keep me involved in it. It wouldn't be like, "that was a neat phase" and you salvage all your records and now you're all boring now. (laughs)

GASP: I hear you, I'm the same way. When I got engaged and married I kind of put playing music on the back burner because she wasn't into and would get jealous of it and I now refer to those years as the suffocating years because now that I'm back on the music scene I feel so much more alive! I mean, when you play music it's because you love it and obviously everyone has dreams of making it, but when you get to a certain age you realize the realities and you say "I would just be happy being a cult figure". I did an interview with Wino and I asked him about royalties and he said the most he got was from when he did the Probot album and he doesn't live off royalties, he has to work. I mean he's a legend but he never achieved enough to live off it, he has to work as a sound guy in his town.

Andy: I would think he would get something. But it's like Man's Ruin said, if you spent a million dollars on promotion you would sell tons of copies but these labels don't have that kind of money to spend on promotion.

Clay: I mean if you were to take a poll in the metal community I'm sure no more than 25% of the people would know who Wino was. It is what it is and it sucks, but if you were to walk into a club and Wino is doing sound it would be like, "hey, it's Wino, I'm gonna buy him a fuckin' beer!"

Andy: At least he's still doing his own music.

GASP: I know he's doing some gigs for the solo album.

Gein: I feel like the best level of success, I mean the bands that can play to like 1,500 seat venues, like The Cramps used to or Danzig, stuff like that, there not like stadiums but they can tour and make a living and command that kind of audience in whatever city they're in but they can also walk down the street and not be mobbed. That's the perfect amount of success.

GASP: Like with Gein and the Graverobbers you can...

Gein: Fill 1,500 seat venues (everyone laughs)

GASP: You guys only have to do it one month out of the year in October.

Clay: And the rest of the year he's just Gein (laughter)

GASP: And can just sit back and be the bassist in Black Pyramid.

Clay: Yeah

GASP: So to wrap this up, at the end of the day, at least in the music community, what would you like to be remembered by?

Andy: I've never even thought of that, I guess as a songwriter. I guess as someone who wrote some good songs with some good guys and they wrote some songs too. Something like that, you know some level of respect as a musician. Or just as a good guy, like that guy was good guy, and you know just leave your mark how ever you can. Nothing negative.

Clay: Well, I'm not a prowess with much but whatever I try to do I try to better it, whatever I'm involved in. If I'm in a band, if I'm recording someone, I want my involvement to be of benefit and I don't want it to be anything that would hamper the creativity of a band or artist that's in the studio. So generally, that's it just a positive hand in music. It's not out of an ego thing, I would just like to be the guy that was like "he worked with him and he worked with him" you know and he didn't ruin the band (laughs) or completely botch the recording, you know he's batting 500, rock on!

GASP: Cool, how about you Gein?

Gein: As long as that money keeps rolling in. (everyone laughs) Being in a band like this, just wanting to be part of the creative process with the music and that sort of thing. I couldn't picture being in a band where you just skate along and show up to practice like, "just teach me the song, whatever"...

Clay: Yeah you can (everyone laughs)

Gein: Well, but as far as long term, if it was a fill-in position I'm sure I could do that. But with Gein and the Graverobbers I'm the main songwriter so joining something like this was weird at first but I like the idea of having a group effort.

Andy: I do too, actually.

Gein: That's what I want to get out of it anyway.

Clay: Gein's got a new found love of tube technology he's taken a whole new vision to the bass, he's like this is something, I could break shit with this. (laughs) He texted me on tour like "I miss my rig" (everyone laughs) and it's got it's capabilities.

Gein: I never took it all that seriously before because all the bands I played in before it was like whatever, I play bass but with this kind of music you've got a lot more room to move and it has more of a presence and once I started playing with that rig, then I realized how booming and kick ass it was so...

Clay: Yeah, and when you're playing in a three piece it's so integral to the sound. It's your left and your right and they come together to make an ungodly fucking force and that's one of my favorite things and that's why I'm into bands like Om and stuff like that because it shows you just how mighty with the right gear you can be.

GASP: Yeah, and that's what attracted me to Black Pyramid, that full cohesive power trio sound vibe. Well, I think that's about it and I appreciate you guys taking the time.

Andy: Well WE appreciate you taking the time.

GASP: No problem man, thanks!

http://www.gaspetc.com/BlackPyramidInterview.html
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