Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mountain God Interview

1.Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the band since the recording of the new album?

Ben: 

Things have been pretty quiet for us.  It took us over a year and a half to get the record planned, rehearsed, and ready, and the writing sessions were pretty intense.  We also did a lot of experimenting with amps and sounds during the recording process, so in a way, we have the opposite feeling of what it is normally like to put out a record.  I think for many bands, it’s the start of a process of touring/etc, where as for us it feels like the culmination of a long journey. That said, we talk fairly regularly, though we’re each doing our own thing currently.  Ryan has a successful touring band called Thera Roya, I’m a full time teacher in Westchester, and Nikhil is always doing something musical whether it’s with Hollow Senses, Quiet Lights, or running Archaic Revival Records.  All of that said, Nikhil and I have had some pretty specific conversations about where to head next.  As Hannibal Lecter would say, “all good things for those who wait!”

2.You have a new album coming out in March, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?

Ben:

Generally speaking, I look at musical notes in the same way as I do words on a piece of paper, or paint on canvas.  They are a means to communicate ideas and thoughts.  Thus, for me at least, I always start with a story, theme, or emotion in my head, and match the songs to that.  In a way, “Bread Solstice” is almost like a sound track to the narrative being presented.  It’s meant to be listened to straight through. Musically, the record is pretty diverse, though it’s primarily rooted in doom and sludge.  So, while there is the occasional clean guitar, or more nuanced, effected melody line, most of the riffs are pretty heavy and dynamic.  The same can be said of the vocals.  Most of them are pretty harsh, with the occasional break from that.  Also, noise and synths played a very major role in rounding out the songs, bringing the music together almost like a binding agent.  Nik in particular is really well versed in creating atmosphere. I also used feedback and effect pedals with my guitar to create some of the washing effects in Hymn to Nothing.

I feel like the new record is the apex of a process started with “Experimentation on the Unwilling” and “Forest of the Lost”.  While each record is its own entity, there is a clear pathway from where we were in 2011/2012 and where we are in 2017.  I personally always wanted to make a record that was heavy in a “metal” sense, with all the atmosphere of Pink Floyd paired with the unexpectedness of King Crimson and other bands of that ilk.

Nikhil:  Somehow both claustrophobic and expansive with a kind of churning cosmic backdrop.



3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the newer music?

Ben: 

“Bread Solstice” is a story that focuses on an unnamed person who sacrifices himself for his community.  The inspiration for this came from the Nazca Lines in Peru, as well as the people who lived in that region.  While accounts about human sacrifice in the Nazca culture is pretty well known, there are mentions of the fact that some people willingly gave themselves to the priests in order to appease the Gods.  I find this admirable and frightening all at the same time, especially when religion and politics are so closely intertwined with the danger of corruption and deviousness looming.

Ryan:

On Bread Solstice my goal was supporting the dark, jagged riffs and themes Jared brought with heavy groovy rhythm. Nikhil and I locked in and would do a lot of arranging with Jared's raw material so parts of all our personalities really came through. I think besides the overarching dark madness theme of Bread Solstice, I'll always think of it having a lot of personality each of us brought to the songs


4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Mountain God'?

Ben:

I have to be honest- naming the band took us quite a long time.  I remember that I badly wanted to name us Owl, but it was taken.  So each and every practice, we would shoot some ideas around the group (at the time we had Ian Murray on drums and Jon Powell on keys) and nothing seemed to ever stick.  Then one day we had just finished up rehearsing a song, right after Hurricane Sandy destroyed Nik’s old place.  Our new space was in this beyond shady spot run by really shady dudes who I’m pretty sure were doing something illegal in the place.  So we were dealing with that, and Nik sort of looked at us and said, “Mountain God”.  We all looked at each other and were like….sold! 

Nikhil:  On one level it represents Animism, which is a world-view that I think important and lacking in the modern world. On the other, it is a reference to Shiva, the Hindu god of music, dance, destruction and marijuana.


5.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?


Ben:

 We’ve played some great shows over the years.  In total, I think we’ve done 30.  The standout gig for me was in 2015, with Ufomammut and Usnea at St. Vitus.  It was sold out- tons of people at one of our favorite venues.  Ufomammut is one of my favorite bands, and a huge influence on the way I think about music, so to be opening for them was unbelievably surreal- particularly for someone who has a career outside of music that is pretty serious.  It was a real honor to share the stage with those guys and something I will always remember.  We also played the first Hoverfest back in 2014, with Yob, Acid King, Witch Mountain and others.  That was a lot of fun.  Meeting Mike from Yob was awesome.  He was really cool to both my wife and I, and one of the nicest people on the scene.  It was a challenging set for us, to be honest.  It was unbelievably hot, using borrowed gear.  I had just got my Monson guitar, so that was new, and my microphone (a copperphone) didn’t lend itself to being outdoors.  I think the Invisible Oranges reporter doing the review said something along the lines of “these guys belong in the darkness!”.  He probably wasn’t wrong!

Our stage presence is what it is- certainly no coordination in outfits, synchronized guitar motions or twirling guitars!  We get up there and do our thing, mostly in the shadows.  Again, not to beat a dead horse, but for us it’s all about atmosphere.  We try to create an interesting scene for our audience to engage with the music.  I think I’ve calmed down over the years- I’m pretty chill up there, not to mention I have to focus on playing well and singing at the same time.



Ryan:

Our show with Ufomammut at St.Vitus has been a highlight of my music career. It was something like an out of body experience to play our big home town venue with a sold out crowd, it made the set effortless. I love playing MG sets with how amorphous and natural our sets flow. A dark/psych. vibe is conjured at the beginning and never lets up till the amps turn off.


6.Do you have any touring or show plans once the new album is released?

Ben:

 It’s hard to say exactly.  As I mentioned, Ryan, Nik and I all have different lives outside the band, so sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge to synchronize our schedules.  We would love to rekindle the pace we set back in 2013-2015.  More Mountain God is certainly looming in the near future. 


7.Currently the band is signed to 'Artificial Head Records', can you tell us a little bit more about this label?

Ben:

 Working with Artificial Head has been phenomenal.  Walter Carlos is an awesome guy and easy to work with on a business level. Initially, we talked on the phone for around 30 minutes or so, and haven’t looked back since.  I sincerely hope that our partnership with the label lasts a long time.  Walter is also the guitarist/vocalist in Funeral Horse, a fantastic doom band from Texas.  He has great taste in signees as well.  Cursus, another band just about ready to put a record out, is heavy as balls.  We’d love to do some shows with them at some point in the future.


8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of sludge and doom metal?

Ben:

We’ve generally gotten positive reviews from people, and our audiences tend to dig what we do during live sets.  It’s funny- the public and press often use the word “experimental” to describe our sound. In thinking about it, I guess that is true, though it was never something I thought about when I started the band.  As we have evolved, our sound continues to develop and break away from tradition. I genuinely believe that Mountain God can’t be lumped into a particular category like so many other bands.  We don’t go out of our way to blend genres.  It just sort of happens organically.  I think this is due to the fact that each member of the band has his own tastes and influences, all of which impacts the songs.  This is particularly true of “Bread Solstice”- it’s pretty easy to see a bit of myself, Nik, and I Ryan in the songs.


9.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that the band members are a part of?

Ben:

Because of my teaching job, it’s hard to have any other musical projects besides Mountain God.  I’ve dabbled here and there jamming, but nothing serious is on the horizon.  I did get an offer to do some vocals for a death/black metal band- we’ll see how that goes.

Nikhil:  Currently working on a new Hollow Senses record as well as an experimental project with Bozzler from Kosmodemonic. Have a few other irons in the fire, though it's probably a bit premature to talk about them.


Ryan:

I run a rock project called Crusasis and is also a founding member in brooklyn sludge band Thera Roya, both projects have been pretty busy with shows and releases.

10.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

Ben:

Nik and I have spent some time talking about this here and there.  Getting nastier, uglier, more abrasive are all things to expect in the future.  Given the times we live in, I can’t see getting away from that.  I personally have been listening to a lot of Godflesh, Unsane, the Jesus Lizard, and Unearthly Trance for inspiration. While Mountain God is often identified as a metal band, I’m not sure how much we have common with a lot of those kinds of acts.  Noise rock comes up a lot, particularly when Nik and I think about our music.  So, it’s not a huge surprise to me that when I’ve picked up guitars recently, a lot of what I find myself working on is exactly that- noisy, nasty, scathing riffs.  Also, while I brought most of the riffs in for the first 3 records, Nik and I have pondered a different writing approach as of late.  We may do some instrument switching.  I particularly would love to spend more time working on my voice, and do some Battilus-esqe vocal process stuff on the next record.

Nikhil:  Pretty hard to say since we've allowed ourselves a fair amount room for experimentation and we're pretty set on making sure we're whatever we do is interesting to us. The current record definitely took a few weird turns that we wouldn't have predicted.


11.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

Ben:

 I’ve had pretty distinct phases of music worship in my life.  Growing up, the first “metal” band I ever got into was Metallica.  From there, I got into really alternative styles of metal like the Deftones, Tool, and bands of that ilk.  When I was in college, listening to Tool helped me discover King Crimson, and I had a very serious prog phase, listening to everything from Genesis, to Floyd, to Yes.  2004 was a big year for me, as it was the first time I heard Mastodon’s “Leviathan”.  Almost within a day of that, I read an article in Guitar World about the band Isis, and from that day forth I was pretty hooked on heavier, more extreme music.  Isis, Neurosis, the Melvins, Ufomammut, Primitive Man, Weedeater, Yob are all bands that I started to discover and really get into.  Nowadays I’ve been listening to more technical bands.  The new Gorguts lineup and records is pretty awesome.  I’m pretty all over the map, but tend to gravitate to the heavier stuff. 

In terms of what inspires my actual playing, it’s mostly doom riffs, like the stuff Jus Osborn would play, or the meaty stuff that Steve von Till comes out with.  I’d be a liar to say Adam Jones wasn’t a huge influence, though it’s clich√© to say.  While I don’t listen to Tool much anymore, I’ve always appreciated how he looked at the instrument almost like a palate, using the wah to color his tone.  The downright sludginess of Undertow still impresses me.
As a vocalist, I’m a pretty huge fan of Chuck Schuldiner from Death, and there is no greater inspiration for me than Roger Waters as a writer.  He is a legend.

Ryan:

Neurosis, Melvins, Zeppelin and Isis were big influences for how I play in MG. Today I've been rocking the new Cherubs, Alex Calder, Cocteau Twins and my friends in the black metal band Umbra from Charlotte.



Nikhil:  I grew up listening to a lot of European doom bands, especially a lot of funeral doom. That sort of harsh gothic vibe has always been a huge influence. Nowadays I think Tim Hecker and Virus have probably had the biggest influence on me. I also love pretty much anything Aidan Baker puts out.


12.What are some of your non musical interests?

Ben:

I’m a huge nerd.  I’ve been running roleplaying games for years, everything from D&D, to Vampire the Masquerade, and Dark Heresy.  It’s a fun, creative outlet for me, and a way to write stories as a shared narrative.  I also play tons of miniatures games, and have thousands of painted figures that I’ve done myself.  I’ve been painting since 4th grade or so.  Also, I have a passion for learning and reading; my career as a history teacher has had a huge influence on the way I look at the world. I have a BA and multiple MA’s in history.   I’ve been working in schools for around 14 years, and have taught both western and non-western subjects to middle school, high school and college age students. 

Nikhil:  Reading and cooking mostly. Music related stuff like DIY electronics and programming take up the bulk of my free time.



13.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Ben:

It’s been a pleasure talking with you.  Mountain God is really special to me on a personal level, and something I hope that lasts the test of time.  Making music is a lot of fun, and a necessity for me- a creative outlet in so many ways.  Thanks again for the interview!







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