Georgia Doomsters KYLESA have been on a roll as of late, releasing their fourth full-length album, "Static Tensions", on Prosthetic Records and scoring the main support slot on MASTODON's recent U.S. tour. With plans for a DVD in the works and the added push of touring with MASTODON, the future looks bright indeed for KYLESA.
Let's talk a bit about the new album, "Static Tensions". What was the song writing process like?
"Well, Phillip and Carl and I wrote the record together. We did a short tour with BARONESS in the winter of '08 in Europe and then we came back... we had like one new song written at that point that we played out live and then we came back and really buckled down and the three of us did all the song writing together. We knew what we wanted to go for - we decided to have a pretty structured blueprint of an album and have everything kind of planned out. We spent from February to June writing the record and the we did a tour in late May, I believe, and tested out a lot of the new songs and then we recorded in June and July. But like I said, the three of us wrote together and we wrote without a bass player, incidentally, because we didn't have a permanent bass player at the time, but the three of us were very focused, so it was easy to get together and just nail out ideas. I had a bunch of ideas, Phil had a bunch of ideas and we let each other breathe creatively. And we just knew what we were going for and I think basically what happened was the previous albums, we'd done a lot of experimentation and we'd had these ideas, but I think this time around the ideas were just more refined and we knew what worked and what didn't necessarily work."
How was the time in the studio?
"It was great. I mean, we don't have a big budget, we're not a band with these large budgets, so it's always working against the clock. So we really went in there with a plan of attack, of how we were going to record everything and use our time wisely. And it really worked - it was the most relaxed I've been in the studio since I've been in this band. Phillip produced it, so he was stressed out the whole time, but we all worked together, we've been working with the guys in the Jam Room studio for a long time, they were on our same page, everyone just worked really hard together to get things done. We set up an alternate studio so that I could work on just my guitar parts. Like, I had time to mess around with different amp tones, different effects and solos and ideas in where in the past we didn't necessarily have the time to do that kind of thing. So the studio was great. They had a better idea of how to record the two drummers this time around, because before, it was not the best situation on how to record the drums. Basically, with 'Time Will Fuse Its Worth', it was the first time we'd had two drummers. In fact, we'd only been jamming with two drummers for about six months and then we immediately wrote these songs and went in the studio not really knowing how to record them. And then Jeff, our drummer at the time, his grandmother died right before I went into the studio, so he had to go back home and go to the funeral and do some family stuff, but we still had to go in the studio. So Carl tracked everything and we tracked everything and then Jeff had to come back in a week later and overdub the whole record, which was a mess - I mean, especially since Carl didn't play to a click-track, so it wasn't the most ideal situation. So this time, we had it totally planned out. Eric, who's our drummer now, and Carl played together; they laid down the foundation for each song and they played together. They got to the Jam Romm and Carl and Phillip had it all planned out on how they were going to mic it all well before we went in there and there was a little bit of trial and error, but because they had the past experience to work off of, it was much smoother. And I'll note that we had some time to sit on the record. We finished all the tracking and the vocals I believe in August and then we went on tour in September and Prosthetic didn't want to release the record until February originally, so we had time to sit on it. So we sat on the mix for awhile and then decided we wanted to remix it and I redid some guitar parts and redid some vocal parts and that really benefitted, 'cause we actually had the time to go 'you know, this tone isn't sitting well with me or this isn't sitting well', so they really, really spent a lot of time on the mix and I think that really benefitted us, having that time to reflect, get away from the record and come back to it and change a few things."
What would be some of your favorite tracks off of it?
"I would say 'Unknown Awareness', 'Running Red', 'Scapegoat' and 'To Walk Alone'."
Tell us a bit about the concept behind the artwork.
"Well, we've been longtime friends with John Baizley. I think we were one of the first bands he did a T-shirt for and I didn't have time to do the artwork this time around - I did the last record, and I didn't have time, I had a lot going on, so we wanted him to do it 'cause we always thought he has done striking record covers and he knows the history of our band, he knows us well as people, he knows where we're coming from. But basically, John, Phillip and I sat on our porch and we talked about the basic themes of the record and then we gave him all of our lyrics. So we talked a bit about color scheme and basic themes, but he took our lyrics and drew the cover art from our lyrics, literally and metaphorically."
What about the special edition vinyl?
"Yeah, okay, cool! 20 Buck Spin licensed the vinyl and there's a regular version, just like a single LP, A-side, B-side with an eight page booklet with each song with art and about two thousand of those were pressed on black vinyl and then he did a deluxe vinyl with a double LP, so it's four sides and we went crazy with that! We had fun coming up with ideas for that. Those were limited to five hundred and he mastered it at 45 RPM, too, so it sounds a little bit different than the other LP at 33. But we did this slip-case cover with a foil stamp and then it's got the eight page booklet in it, it comes with an A2 sized poster and a patch and a sticker. Then we did this crazy color vinyl on really heavy 180 gram... I'm just so happy with the way it came out. Those sold out pretty fast. And we're also doing, which we haven't made yet, we're gonna do a hundred on clear vinyl with silk screen covers, but we haven't made those yet."
What would be your thoughts on the current Stoner/Doom Metal scene?
"I mean, it's huge right now. KYLESA started in 2001... it's bigger now than it's been since we've been a band. Metal in general is huge, like look at LAMB OF GOD, look at MASTODON, I mean, they're huge. The Stoner Metal scene is doing really well, the Metal scene in general and all the different facets of it are doing rather well. We'll see how it goes 'cause everything is pretty cyclic, but right now it's great. It was very hard starting out, playing weird music because we were too Punk for a lot of the Metalheads and we were way too Metal for the Punks and we were also too weird 'cause we've always had a psychedelic influence and back then it wasn't as accepted. And now there's just more of a cross-pollination of genres that's accepted, which is great."
Is there any possibility of doing a DVD sometime in the near future?
"Absolutely - we are working on a DVD. Yes. I don't have a timeline for that, per se, because we're so busy right now, but it is in the works, we are gonna have a DVD and we're going to do a live record."
What do you think the current biggest flaw in the music community is? Not just Metal, but as a whole.
"As a whole... see, I don't pay attention to a lot of mainstream music."
Mainstream isn't music, though. (laughter)
"Exactly. I didn't know if that's what you were asking me. (pauses) Well, unfortunately, I think a lot of bands become popular because of the hype that they have behind them, the hype machine that they have behind them or their resource. A lot of it is marketing and resource and if you don't have that, it's a lot harder. We've always kind of done it from a grass roots level because we haven't had a lot of resources. Also, I think that image is too important to a lot of magazines, which to me, it should be about the music and not how your hair looks, you know? And the music scene in general is just going through such a big phase, change just because of the technology changing and we'll see where that takes us."
And that bleeds right into my next question - what are your thoughts on the current digital "revolution"?
"It'll be interesting, man, the way things change. I mean, everything's going to go digital, not just just music, but movies and television - everything is going to become wireless and to me, growing up and going to record stores and having something tangeble to touch and feel... it's kind of a bum-out. And at the same time it's great 'cause I have access to all sorts of stuff that I wouldn't normally have access to. But it loses a little bit of it's soul when it goes digital because music becomes very disposable when music should not be disposable - it should be... it's very lively, it's very much an entity in itself, you know. I think there'll always be die hards and it's amazing to me that vinyl is still around, you know, cassettes are gone, CD's are going, but vinyl is still around and I don't think there's a huge market for it, but I think for the hardcore fans, they'll still be there. It's harder to say with younger generations how that will work and it'll also be interesting to see the way money exchanges hands with the digital world and how record labels have their money and how artists make money."
One of the things that makes me sad about CD's going by the wayside is that it kind of eliminates the thrill of the hunt. You know, you don't have "oh my God, I finally tracked this down!" - it's like, "click - Oh, I have it".
"Exactly - there's no more score. I remember going to record stores and scoring and just being like 'OH!!!', you know? And it wasn't even that long ago."
I still do it.
"I still do it too, but with the advent of eBay, too, like scoring at thrift stores of that kind of thing are a lot less common. I scored most of my Classic Rock collection at used record stores for nothing. And then you find the rare Metal or the rare Punk record that you've been looking for and then you're just so stoked on. That just doesn't happen as much and it probably will cease to happen... it might happen, but it will happen in a different form, like it'll happen online."
It's not as cool as turning it up in the dollar bin, though.
"It's totally not as cool, man! It's totally not as cool! I love record stores, you know, and I do my best to support them. Any time we tour in a town with a good record store, I try to go to it."
Have you been to Second Avenue Records here in Portland?
Okay, what's the future for KYLESA?
"Well, we're touring a bunch right now and we want to keep touring on this record for awhile and then we want to do a DVD, we want to do this live record and then we've got to start writing for a new record, so we're pretty busy. We're really busy. After the MASTODON tour, we'll have a couple days off and we're going to do some dates in the Northeast and then we're going to go to Europe and then take about a month off and then probably hit the road again." [FIN]