April 2002 - COUNTERSHAFT
I've lost some good words about the first demo of COUNTERSHAFT, but I was really excited about their second one "So Low". This band is far away from the typical boring heavy rock you can listen to everywhere. Maybe one of the reasons is that guitar-player Greg Turley was part of the PENTAGRAM line-up in the mid-90's and he's still a very good friend of Victor Griffin and Bobby Liebling. But COUNTERSHAFT aren't any kind of a PENTAGRAM clone band. Due to all this amazing facts I've talked with Greg about his past, present and future and vocalist Rodney explains his lyrical influences.
On March 7th, you've played a show together with Internal Void, Pale Divine and Wooly Mammoth at Jaxx to celebrate the release of the new EP "So Low". It must have been be a pretty exciting and heavy evening to share the stage with the mighty Internal Void and both other bands are also very impressive. Give us a short review about that night. How many people have come to the show etc.? Maybe any interesting stories about it?
It was a stressful night for us but as always it was fun. We had advertised this show as the release of out new EP, "So Low" but as of the morning of the show it hadn't been duplicated. Luckily by the end of the day we had about 50 or so copies to take with us. The bands were great, we've played the last couple of shows with Internal Void and they're always good. Pale Divine came down from PA, that was the first time I have seen them, man the rocked. Wooly Mammoth played right after we finished so I didn't get to see their whole set but what I did see I really enjoyed it. I think what was really cool about that night was that each band was really heavy but also had their own distinctive sound.
Sadly I haven't had the chance to listen to the new EP "So Low". Have you included only new songs and where have you recorded and produced the new EP? Have you put out a vinyl edition, too? Please, tell us more about it. Is it comparable with the"2K1" demo/promo?
We recorded and produced 4 new songs in February 2002 at PowerValve studios in Northern Virginia, the tone and overall sound is close to the "2K1" demo but overall, the songs are a little darker. The vocals are the biggest difference in the recordings. The vocals are more melodic on "So Low" (comparable to the song "Sorrow Train" on "2K1") and the guitar tone is closer to my live tone. We are really happy with the final product, hopefully we'll be able make it available to anyone who wants to hear it. We have talked about possibly having a 7" vinyl pressing of it, maybe in a couple of months.
By the summer of 2001, you've written over a dozen original songs. Why haven't you recorded a full-length instead of an EP?
We do have more songs but the thought behind recording just a few at a time are in the hopes that we will generate some interest from a label. We released "2K1" in June 2001, and we just released "So Low" so that is seven songs in less than a year's time. It's tough to record, produce, layout, design, duplicate and distribute a CD without any outside help. Not that I'm complaining by any means, there is a certain satisfaction from doing it all yourself as well.
Have you released "So Low" on any label or is it self-released and distributed?
It's self released and distributed solely by us at this point.
Are you still playing in the same line-up as on the fine demo/promo "2K1"?
No, we lost our previous bass player. He just stopped showing up at practice, no excuses, no explanation not anything. We do have a new bass player, his name is John Palmer who has been playing with us about 6 months now. Rodney Davidson is on vocals, Ryan White on drums and myself on guitar.
You are writing in your band-bio, that COUNTERSHAFT has managed to create a very unique sound splitting away from the norms of the heavy rock genre and when I compare it with other band infos you're speaking the truth. You don't try to sound like Vitus, Pentagram or Kyuss and that's not very typical for today. What do you think about it and what's the reason for your outstanding sound?
I'm not sure why it's different. It's just what naturally comes out. I learned how to play guitar from Victor so I basically grew up listening to and playing Death Row/ Pentagram songs. On a side note, I remember Ryan and I going to parties in High School and getting up to jam with the bands that were playing covers, we would start playing all of these Pentagram songs like Relentless, Run My Course or Evil Seed. And people wouldn't know what to think. Ryan and I used to always jam on those songs all of the time, so when we got up to jam with bands we really wouldn't know any of the same songs. Instead of learning a bunch of covers that we could hear someone else play, we just started writing our own.
You've played a lot of gigs since the band's birth in 1999. Some of these shows were organized by Doug Roemer of DoomCapital.com. When I look at the the live-pics of COUNTERSHAFT on his website, I see a charasmatic (especially vocalist Rodney Davidson) and energy-loaded band. How important are concerts for the band?
We love playing live. Rodney and I have always been into bands like Alice Cooper and Kiss so that really carries over live. While we don't go to those extremes, we at least try to put energy into the show. Rodney definitely demands attention while on stage, sometimes I'll look over and wonder what he's up to. He kind of catches me off guard sometimes. I just think that the band should look and sound as professional as possible.
Your lyrics recall the literary themes of Poe, Kafka and James Joyce. What do you think about authors like Hubert Selby Jr., Ambrose Bierce or Bret Easton Ellis just to name a few? What are your other lyrical influences?
For the most part Rodney writes the lyrics. See his response below.
Rodney: I have not read anything by Selby, Bierce, nor Ellis. Most of my literary influences are classic authors of western literature. Beyond Kafka, Joyce, and Poe I could cite Dickens and both Percy and Mary Shelley. Rock lyricists that have influenced me would include Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Lou Reed, Henry Rollins, John Lydon, Alice Cooper, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Pete Townsend, Robert Plant, and EARLY Mick Jagger. The philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi, Jean Paul Sartre, Rene Descartes, Socrates, and Jesus Christ have also greatly influenced my way of thinking, which is manifested in Countershaft's lyrics, indirectly if not directly.
Greg, you're a very very good old friend of Bobby Liebling and you were part of the Pentagram line-up in 1995 together with Victor Griffin, Gary Isom and Marty Swaney. In the Cosmic Lava interview Victor said, that he did some of the best shows with this line-up and when I talked with Gary about these times he's still fascinated. How is your personal remembrance to this days? Have you learned a lot about playing music in Pentagram?
That was a great experience, like I said before I grew up playing those songs. To have the opportunity to go out and play some live shows and be considered a member of the band was great. I remember basically everything about all of the shows I played with them. From the first song I completely fumbled through on New Years Eve to a killer in set at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC to the huge fight that broke out in the middle of Wartime (of all songs) at the last show.
When and how did you met Bobby?
I can't really remember when I first met him, probably when I was 12 or 13 years old! No joke, Victor used to get me into their shows back in 1987, I was barely hitting puberty! Ha! I've known him for a long time.
Have you listen to the new Pentagram album "Sub-Basement" and what do you think about it? I think it's a total killer, better than 90 percent of todays releases and it shows once again that it's much to big for narrow-minded categories like "stoner" or doom or whatever people will call this music.What it's your opinion?
I like the album much better than Review Your Choices. I love the song, Buzzsaw. It's really a driving song with a lot of energy. Overall though, I still like the first three albums better. Maybe I'm biased but that's just me. As far as categorizing the sound, the term Stonerrock is so broad now. I just prefer to call it all heavy rock music. I'm sure in another year there will be a new term or sub-category for this type of music. Who knows?
For a temporary contact there's the COUNTERSHAFT e-mail address printed inside the "Sub-Basement" album. I hope, that Bobby and Joe will get the response they have deserved for this masterpiece. What can you tell us about it?
Bobby asked me if he could put our contact info on the album because they didn't have a website or an email address. I have no problem with that, it gets our name out to people and gives Bobby and Joe the opportunity to receive email so it works for both of us.
Last question about Pentagram. Do you think, that Bobby and Joe will ever find a stable line-up in the future for a tour outside the USA, or have they lost interest in it?
I'm not sure what they are going to do about touring. In the past there have been stable line-ups and they never toured outside of the US so I really don't know.
And what about a European tour of COUNTERSHAFT in the future?
A European tour for CounterShaft??? I'm not sure, of course it would be a lot of fun and I would love to do it, we'll have to wait and see what happens in the future.
Ok, we've reached the end of this interview . Thanks a lot for your time. Good luck with the band! Is there anything the readers should know or something you like to add?
I just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I would like to thank everyone who has supported us the past year and look forward to being in contact with everyone in the future. Thanks, Greg