Not many of the newer bands in the Doom scene did impress me a lot. But every now and then there is one band that releases one album that I really really learn to love. If that band releases more than one album that I would cherish, then it's definitely time to get a small insight into this band. That is why I began chatting with guitarist/vocalist John Sarnie (mastermind behind California based, Maryland-styled Doom heavyweights Leather Nun America) quite some time ago already and after the release of the great album 'Kult Occult' (review here) this became and interview of sorts with sometimes no real questions but a bit of conversation. Read now what John has to say about his band, his youth in Maryland or his current view on the scene.
Ok, John, let us start the interview if that is okay for you. I really dig the new album.
Sure.. thanks Oddy. The new album was recorded at the same studio as last time. But we did like 4 rythm guitar tracks, last one was just 2. Also we did 2 bass tracks, one was played clean, the other dirty. And we layered many more vocals throughout. Glad you liked it, seems you are the only German who does this time!!
Really? Did not realize that? Did you get bad reviews from Germany? How is the overall response so far?
I got one bad review from a German webzine. But 90 % good reviews overall. I thought Germany would luv this one?
Not sure what is wrong with my fellow countymen and women. I guess there are enough to like it. But maybe they all are into this new occult movement in the scene. Hence, I was wondering, is the title of the album as well as the cover art your reaction to the current occult rock trend?
No, I was not aware of that trend. But if you are refering to Electric Wizard, I am into them and a big fan of their image. I think with our cover and art, it was more of like 70s B-movie like 'Easy Rider', those were the soundbites we used in the begining and before the last song. I dunno? I guess we are trying in a stupid way to be more metal? But maybe come off as cheezy, ha ha ha. In the end it just sounds like us, so maybe no image is needed. I can tell you, we will use new artists for cover art, also a new recording facility for a next record.
Ha. So I better not ask you about your view on bands like Ghost or The Devil's Blood. If you have not heard (of) them...When I go through the lyrical topics, there is not much occult there. I get more of an idea of you being a Christian. If so, how does belief influence your way of making music?
Noooooo! Fuck Ghost! Im happy for their success, but no fan here. I think Rise Above should do better to promote the doom by signing excellent bands. Shit, they got all that Electric Wizard money. They should do great things with it, but instead they give us Ghost. Devil's Blood? - I dunno, I'll have to check them out, and decide. But no - we are no Christians, I dont know where that comes from. A couple Christian streaming hard rock sites have featured 'Kult Occult'. I have no idea why. You are right though, lyrical themes were much darker in the begining, I did some re-writes on 2 tracks midway through. And I let the artist do what came to his mind.
We really struggled to get this one out! Production was difficult, I wanted an extreme heavy factor that the studio was unable to obtain. I tracked massive amounts of guitar and bass, but didn't get the exact sound. And the art got rushed , and it seemed like the guy was not into it much, so I made no changes to it. And 'Kult Occult' just rolls off the tongue, and sounds memorable. That's why your asking right? It makes you think. How dare you call us Christians! Ha ha ha ha. Im Buddhist and pretty sure the other two are agnostic. We are scumy but with decent hearts.
'Damiana' has a touch of Christian imagery, at least for me. But I can understand the difference between using images and true belief.
Well, we call her Lesbiana around here. Ha! No, sorry to spoil it from your viewpoint, but I was trying to write like a 'Fade To Black' type of song from 'Ride the Lightning'. I think that song is about struggle. And how we all have it, women and men. We are trying to just be happy, and not suffer too much. But we get both and some people go through tremendous hardship all their lifes. Some would say its their karma but it could be just that's the way it is. That's why when we listen to music or read or look at art, we forget that shit for a moment. 'Damiana' is crying and I can't find happiness, its the same for millions of people around the world.
That's why doom is so powerful, we are no top fourty pop kind of people, we are inteligent, introspective and creative, so this music is a tiny sub-genre. We are not gurgling or growling. Its played from the heart, clear as a bell. It may never reach the masses but they are robbing themselves of the true beauty of underground thought. I think Christians are sheep, and that's why in the lyric booklet I put "stop using me to justify your hatred." signed God, because wether it's Christian fanatics or Muslim or whatever, they are all killing in the name of God. How pathetic. Christians are not righteous, they are corrupt, and don't even see it.
Ah I see. Once again the lineup from the last album to 'Kult Occult' changed. Tell us about the new guys. How did you find them?
Yes, the lineup has changed. The guys on the record are the ones we toured Europe with. We have not played with that drummer in quite a while. He was a total douche nightmare to us, and people we stayed with on tour. He had not all of his plane ticket money so Noel (bass player) and I had to give him our spending money just to get him on the plane. I only ate the first three days of tour at the venue because we had no money until we started selling the merchandise. And he was a drunken rockstar type of wanky stature. But his tracks were left on the album because we had not enough money to re-do them.
Now the guy we got is a big guy with lots of experience and power, also double bass capable. He is like Iron Bob Fouts jr. His name is John Pasquale. Noel, the bass player has moved to Georgia, and does not really play heavy music anymore, mostly country or bar type music. So we got Francis Roberts back in the fold from before. He was in the 'Below Zero' music video and he will be in our new video for 'Murderkkult'. He is directing it as well. So that will be the new lineup , and the video will be on Youtube somewhen 2012. By the way, Francis sings as well, so we will do some song with duel vocals, and adding an Obsessed cover, so don't miss us if we tour there (Europe) this time!
Speaking of touring, how was the tour with your labelmates Iron Hearse? I missed you guys unfortunatly. How was GlÃ¼ckstadt (I proposed that venue to Mark) especially?
Yes, the tour with Iron Hearse went excellent! Those guys were great and believe it or not but those Englishmen had a very similar sense of humor as us. So it became a very tight knit group and awesome adventures right from the start. And Mark Hegedus (owner of Psychedoomelic Records) came with us on the whole thing. So, I thought we would just meet him in Vienna but he came and supervised and made sure we got paid at the end of every gig. He is an awsome label owner and cool guy as well. And yes, GlÃ¼ckstadt was a highlight gig for both bands. Not a big venue, but good turn out and wild hell raising. Thanx for setting that up Oddy, just wish you were there. Next time for sure? I must mention that all the German gigs were a great success!
Good to know that it went well for you guys. How did the tour compare to U.S. gigs? Did you tour there already or is it the typical gigs around your home town?
The U.S. does not compare. Sadly there is poor turn out to metal/doom in the U.S.. Its much like when the Obsessed or Vitus was touring here in about 94. No one there, it was me, my friend Bill, and maybe about 4 other dudes. Now they are commanding big audiences in their re-forming. But that's how it is for Leather Nun america, only a handful of die-hards, that's it. But in Europe we are treated well with good pay, food, even accomodations. And shows were for the most part packed, except for the Budapest show on a Tuesday night. But all in all it is way better in Europe for us for sure. We will return soon I hope.
Would be cool if you'd come back. I hope seeing you guys then. Speaking of seeing Vitus and Obsessed back in 94. Was that when you still were in Maryland? You are a Maryland native as far as I heard. That would explain the obvious influence.
No, that was in California. But yes I am from Maryland. I grew up there. And moved to California when I turned 20. So I have seen the Obsessed there and with their early lineup. Also saw Death Row and Asylum, who changed their name to Unorthodox. Maryland is large and it stretches to Baltimore to the north and all the way east to the cost . But I grew up in Gaithersburg/Rockville area. That's where all or most of the more famous dooms bands were from. It was close to the Washington/Virginia state lines.
So. that influence runs deep in me. As a teen we of course listened to Sabbath, but also progressive records from Yes to King Crimson to punk and metal. The guitarists in my day could play thier asses off and I was always catching up. Wino put out an 7" EP and I bought it when I just started learning to play. I took it to my guitar teacher and made him teach me that style. Then not too long after I got my mom to lend me money to buy my first Les Paul!
Regarding the "Maryland sound"...there is not too many bands these days that do this sound when you look at how many Doom bands are active these days. And most of these bands are the old bands or new bands formed by people that cultivated that sound. Do you think that this kind of sound still gets a little overlooked (with the exception of Wino's bands of course)?
Well, the "Maryland sound" is just the traditional doom sound. I think European traditional doom has its own qualities. And if you are not talking about desert rock or San Francisco type shit, then the american style all share similar things in common. As far as true "Maryland sound", it seems to all come from that region of Gaithersburg/Rockville/Frederick general area. And a lot of those dudes are quite old now, so the younger bands have to pop up and do something special.
I have seen Wino so many times over the years, I got to say his playing live trumps any record! He shreds the guitar so fast and well, he is in the league of like Yngwie Malmsteen, or whoever. So that kind of talent will always keep Maryland-type doom on the map. And I don't think its been overlooked, it is still always quality coming from there. Hell, you know that Oddy, you have been to Deathfest and such. But also it is been popular in Germany 'cause of the Hellhound label in the 90s. Plus Europeans have style and bite! Ya'll know whats good.
I have been to the first Doom Or Be Doomed. But yeah, I know what you mean. Back from the general talk to the Leather Nun. What is up next for you guys?
Oh, yeah Doom Or Be Doomed. I luv it. What's next is a new album again, starting in a couple of months but could take a good while. We will switch producers and studios again, so it should be cool. There has been Europen tour talk with Alunah, who didn't think they would clear enough money for petrol. That sounds suspect to me because last time if we didn't have to pay our flights we would have made out quite well. Not knocking them, they are on Psychedoomelic. But maybe its just not the right time for them.
So that brings us to Gallow God. They are my favorite right now and the best act on Psychedoomelic's roster. They have been asked to tour in our behalf. And we are hopeful it can happen. Would take a while to organize though. And they just replaced their bass player, so I'm sure they are sorting alot right now. But they are our first choice. And there has been talk of regional bands joining the tour for one off gigs in France and Germany. The bands being Germany's Tortured Spirit and Britain's Iron Void. Now that would be a mini doom festival right there!
So, let us get a bit teeny-metal-mag like. I sometimes like shit like that. Best Maryland/D.C. band with no Wino involvement?
Well, it would have to be Earthride! By the way, they never tour enough. There is huge demand for them in California, and the never come out. But, if that is no good because Dave was in Spirit Caravan, then I take Unorthodox! And Dale Flood, Wino etc. went to my highschool, Wooten, in Rockville Maryland. Saw them play on numerous occasions, when I was still in junior high.
Best riff you have recorded yet?
Aw man, I dunno? I guess it's 'The Oath' off of 'All Your Kin'! It is a Wino rip-off riff from the 'Dreamwheel' Ep. It sounded sooooo similar I added all that delayed intro soloing to it, for a mild disguise.
Haha. What is the favourite song you recorded?
Ohhhhh, Jesus! Tough questions man. I would have to pick 'Final Resting Ritual' off of our 'Absence Of Light' album. Once again Wino rip-off riffs. The main riff comes from some Hidden Hand type of stuff, I came up with after listening to their last album. And the second riff is a rip from 'Jug Fulla Sun', one of the instrumentals.
Ha, thought I ask you because I got asked by a fellow musician lately and he was irritated that my fave riff was not in my fave song. At least I am not alone. What was the most irritating or disturbing situation/habit you witnessed while touring Europe?
Oh, see. We are twins. Hey, I love Europe. I dunno how you feel about the States, cause you have been to Maryland. But the most anoying thing was traveling with a drunken idiot for a drummer. And him being rude and basically what Europeans would call a "typical American". He was a jerk to the people who were helping us, and he is gone now. But I could live in Europe though. Germany and Austria, I'd totally be comfortable there!
I was thinking more about European habit/behaviour. When I came back from the States my biggest concern for example was the lack of salt and vinegar chips in Germany.
Oh, I don't know. People are the same the world over. I can't give you any bad European behaviour traits. Other than the English van driver and Iron Hearse's buddy left us in a Belgian shopping mall for 3 hours while they went out looking to buy large amounts of regular tobacco. I guess its cheaper there than in England. But, I too am pissed off about the lack of salt and vinegar chips in So Cal. WTF?
Thanks for the interview, buddy.