Again, it's about time for Cosmic Lava to take a look at Maryland. The reason therefor is the instrumental band CHOWDER and their first release which is downright convincing. That's heavy, psychedelic, metallic progressive rock of the first rate, that is simultaneously very emotional. It's the class and the long lasting experience of all three involved musicians, which is why head and heart play an equal role in their music. Needless to say, that they also unleash a pack of energy and that they know how to rock. Guitarist Josh Hart, who was also the bass player for Revelation and Unorthodox, answered my questions and due to his musical background it's quite plain that not only CHOWDER is the key issue of this interview, but also his old bands, Hellhound Records and many many more.... By the way, Josh detailed and honest answers are making this interview to one of the best in the 9 year old history of Cosmic Lava....
Josh, I was really surprised when I read in the CHOWDER biography, that you formed the band together with drummer Chad Rush in 1995. Why did it took so long until you released the first CD-EP in 2007?
Chad and I have had a rough road musically. We've been writing the music that would eventually be called CHOWDER for a very long time. When we first stared it was more of a hobby. It was 1991, I was still in REVELATION and Chad was drumming for a Baltimore metal band called SOWERS OF DISCHORD. Rich, the singer for Sowers was a good friend of mine who I had been in a hardcore band with called HARSH TRUTH. He called me up and asked if I wanted to have a jam session with this drummer he'd been playing with to just sort of see what happened. Chad and I clicked pretty much right away and reflecting on it now I guess Rich sort of knew we were on the same page. We got together randomly for the next couple of years, wrote a few songs for what was then known as "The side project" and stayed friends.
By the time we got serious about being a real band around 1995-96 it was a tough time to find people who were interested in doing what we wanted to do. CHOWDER was too progressive for most heavy music fans and too heavy for the prog fans I guess. So for a long time we had no bass player. On top of that we thought we would have a vocalist as well and that was even harder to find. We held it together until about 1999-2000 just writing songs in that dingy basement until it seemed like a lost cause. I always had hope that we'd get it back together though..
Fast forward 7 years.....When John and I started discussing the Doom Or Be Doomed Festival I decided to contact Chad and give it one more go. I asked Doug, the bass player in my hardcore band STOUT if he would be interested in joining and he came onboard. Doug is an amazing player and took to our way of writing like he'd been doing it his whole life. I am unbelievably happy about the whole situation and very lucky to have such open minded, talented musicians to play with. We really owe a lot of it to John Brenner who was so into our music and really made me feel like it was something worth pursuing again. The EP we did with his label was his suggestion and his enthusiasm to record and release it is really what made it happen after all these years.
Before we return to your own band I would like to talk with you about your musical past in the 90's. Most of the Cosmic Lava readers know, that you've been the bass-player in REVELATION and UNORTHODOX. At first, I would like to ask you about your time with REVELATION. You joined the band in 1991 and left the band two years later, shortly after John Brenner. What was the reason for your decision and how do you remember this years with the band?
This isn't my favorite topic of discussion but let me say first that I really enjoyed playing music with John and we became good friends during the short time I was in REVELATION. I learned so much about music and playing from him. When he left the band and there was talk of Dennis joining in his place I felt uneasy about it but sort of just went with the flow. I guess Dale Flood had heard about John splitting and asked me to play for UNORTHODOX which was pretty overwhelming at the time. They were playing the most complex music around the area back then and I was totally intimidated by the whole thing. I wasn't sure if I was able to handle the material.
You have to understand I was playing thrash and hardcore pretty much exclusively until I joined REVELATION so actually playing bass like a real bass player was all relatively new to me. It wasn't until I had conversations with Brenner and Terry Weston about it that I decided to make a go of it. Those guys totally encouraged me and made me feel like I was capable of doing it. So to make a short story even longer I had reservations about someone else taking John's place in REVELATION (even though it turned out Dennis did an amazing job and is a brilliant musician) and I had an offer to play for my favorite local band. It's just the way things worked out.
You was also part of the line-up, which recorded the legendary 'Never Comes Silence' album, which has been released by Hellhound Records in early 1993. Have you ever thought that this would become a legendary album?
In a word....no. Not because I questioned the material or performance, it was just the times. We knew we had something really good but in the early 90's no one really gave a shit about the kind of stuff we were doing. Death metal was just about to end its peak then and we were about as far removed from that scene as a band could be. THE OBSESSED, SAINT VITUS, PENTAGRAM and the bands that are revered in heavy music circles now were still pretty much unknown. A band like REVELATION was about as obscure as it got. I never would've guessed that 15 years later I'd be answering questions in an interview about it! All that aside 'Never Comes Silence' is one of my favorites and it's one of the few recordings that I can listen to, get caught up in and totally forget that I'm actually playing on it. There is so much raw emotion on that album and not one note of it is contrived.
When exactly did you joined UNORTHODOX? I think, it must be pretty amazing to be part of the next legendary band, and what do you think about the 'Balance Of Power' album today? Have you played a lot of shows together with Dale Flood and Ron Kalimon?
I think it was around the spring of 1993 when I first rehearsed with Dale and Ronnie. It was a great learning experience playing in that band. I had so much enthusiasm back then. I wanted so bad to be able to play that material that even though I was going to college full time and working in a restaurant in the evenings I would stay up all night after work practicing songs like "Zombie Dance" and "Unorthodox" It forced me to learn chops, to become a better player. It was definitely more military than REVELATION and was my first experience at just being the guy who plays someone else's music as opposed to being an equal member. I have nothing but love and respect for Dale but he and I are two very different people and it caused us to butt heads on a lot of things. Amazing? Yes and no. I definitely wouldn't change much about my time in the band.
I think 'Balance Of Power' is a good album that could've been great. The songs are some of my favorites but I think the mix is rather thin and I don't really care for the song order which was decided by Hellhound. We had different ideas for the order which would've made the album more dynamic in my opinion. I'm really nitpicky about stuff like this though so maybe it's just me. We recorded a few songs that didn't make the cut like "World In Trouble", "Dying Breed" and "Fade Away" and when I think about it now they really should've been on there too. I wonder what happened to those recordings?
We did play out a lot and I really dug that. At that time we had a solid following so the gigs were usually good. It was the first time I'd been in a band that would play two sets a night. It took a good bit of endurance. The alcohol helped! UNORTHODOX was also the first band I traveled out of the country with and I'll never forget that week in Germany. It was one of the most ridiculous, fun times I ever had. Ronnie Kalimon has a great sense of humor and had my stomach hurting from laughing so much. It was like being on another planet. I remember our first day off in Berlin, the morning after our first show. We bought some hash from some guys at the gig and smoked some (which was rare for me) while walking around, going into shops and talking to people. It was such an amazing, surreal day. I wish I had been more interested in the historical significance of Berlin and insisted on seeing more sights but I was young. The alcohol helped...