September 2010 - WAR INJUN
It's time again to pay close attention to Maryland. As you probably noticed by now, Cosmic Lava has a fondness and huge interest at the heavy rock/doom community which can be found in the eastern federal state of the USA. There is no doubt that Maryland-based bands as, for example, Revelation, The Obsessed or Asylum/Unorthodox, just to name a few, have a great impact on newer doom or heavy rock groups. As a side note, Frank Zappa or Billie Holiday also grew up there. By that I mean that this US-state is a very specific place, not only in terms of heavy music but also with regard to music history in general. But back to topic: WAR INJUN is the next killer band that comes from Maryland.
And, as is so often the case, the band consists of veterans which already made an appearance in the history of doom. This year will see the release of WAR INJUN's debut album 'Tribal Eulogy', and I can assure you now that it will be a head melting experience. It might be the heaviest and most crushing doom metal album that has been recorded in Maryland. However, the time was ripe for me to do this interview and, fortunately, drummer JB Matson and vocalist J.D. Williams (Internal Void) were kind enough to answer my questions. They allow a deep insight in the history of WAR INJUN that is closely linked to the history of the North American Indians.
Hey guys, welcome to Cosmic Lava. Before we talk about your upcoming album 'Tribal Eulogy', let's go back to the beginnings of WAR INJUN. As far as I am aware, the band was formed in 2003 by J.D. Williams and Kenny Staubs. JB, when did you join WAR INJUN and what was the reason to form the band? I ask this question because some of you are involved in other groups such as Internal Void and Earthride. Did you have too much spare time?
JB: Actually, WAR INJUN was formed by Kenny, myself, and Kyle VanSteinburg (Earthride) as a three piece with Kyle on bass. In time, Kyle played guitar, while Adam Heinzmann (Internal Void) filled in on bass. That position would eventually be filled by Dave Sherman. Once we had a few complete songs, J.D. joined the band as the lead vocalist.
The first lineup also includes Dave Sherman (Earthride, ex-Wretched, ex-Spirit Caravan) on bass, who was later replaced by Dave Morgan. Why did he leave the band?
JB: The original line up remained strong until Sherman had some personal/female issues and Dave Morgan stepped in. We had played a couple of shows with Dave M.'s old band, Leviathan A.D., and he was the definite choice as Sherman's replacement.
You and Kenny were both members of Outside Truth. Shame on me, but I never heard anything from your old band before WAR INJUN. I've tried almost everything to get any informationes about Outside Truth, but this has not been possible. Please, help me to close my knowledge gap and tell us more about the band.
JB: Kenny and I jammed together in the early/mid 90's with Outside Truth. While we had Outside Truth together we were fortunate to have had multiple shows with Internal Void, Unorthodox, Wretched, Iron Man, two shows with Pentagram and one with Saint Vitus. We also played with Nine Finger (Mike Dean of C.O.C.'s side project). We broke up in 1995 and Kenny and I went on to form Loaded Goat with J.D. on vocals and Tyler Vansteinburg (MIST) on bass. This lineup didn't go past a 4 song demo and eventually WAR INJUN was born. I will send you both demos Klaus, for you to check out.
Wow, that's fantastic!!! Thanks in advance, JB. What other bands have you played in?
JB: Just Outside Truth and Loaded Goat.
Was WAR INJUN intended as fully functional band or as a side project? Do you have played a lot of shows over the past few years?
JB: Most of WAR INJUN's shows were local in the MD/DC/VA area. In 2006 we played at The Note in Chicago at the Pre-Templars of Doom. J.D. couldn't make the show, so Kenny Bones of Negative Reaction came down from New York to learn/sing the set for Pre-Templars. He saved the show so to speak.
J.D. Williams: WAR INJUN was never a side project. This was JB and Kennys brewing cauldron and Kyle and I caught wind and walked upstream.
Your first public sign of life was the track 'A Dangerous Prayer' for Crucial Blast's excellent 'Doom Capital' compilation. Why did you decide to take this step instead of releasing a 7" or a debut album?
JB: The offer to have a track on the Doom Comp came after we had recorded the demo at the Polar Bear Lair, but prior to any other professional recording. We thought it would be a good chance to give the public a taste of WAR INJUN.
Now finally your debut album 'Tribal Eulogy' will be released by Blood & Iron Records in fall 2010. It has already been recorded in 2006 and I was surprised that it has been on hold for four years. Why is that?
JB: We had always planned on releasing a full length album after the demo, but Chris Kozlowski's (Polar Bear Lair) schedule was booked, so we recorded 'Tribal Eulogy' at "The Barn", a studio in Columbia, MD built by Wino and Bruce of Hidden Hand. Bruce Falkinburg mastered the recording and Chris Kozlowski did the final engineering 'Tribal Eulogy' was originally slated to be released by Hellride Music or 12th Records, but both deals fell through from reasons beyond my control with both labels. Years passed then I ran back into FJ of Blood and Iron Records through internet forums. I told him we still had an unreleased full length and he excitedly took the responsibility to release the long overdue Tribal Eulogy.
The production is truly massive. Fortunately, you sent me a copy of 'Tribal Eulogy' (clickherefor the review) and I'm still enthusiastic about it. Apart of the tracklist and the cover artwork, I don't have much informations about the album. Would you give us an insight in the recording sessions? How much time have you spent in the studio?
JB: The original demo was done 100% by Chris Kozlowski. 'Tribal Eulogy' was recorded and mastered by Bruce Falkinburg (Hidden Hand) in 2006. Chris K. did the final engineering for us at the Polar Bear Lair earlier this year. The recording session was done in about two weeks. Chris K. is the man, but Bruce is good at what he does as well.
You have re-recorded the previously released tracks (A Dangerous Prayer, No Worry Woman, New Ink) for 'Tribal Eulogy' and the new versions are just fantastic. Who would've thought that it's possible to optimize this killer songs, because the early versions are also damm good. Why did you decide to rearrange and to re-record this tracks?
JB: We re-recorded the songs off of the demo for the full length and had a few new songs to add. Dave Morgan was the new bass player for WAR INJUN so it was only fair to record the whole album with him playing bass. Out of respect for Dave Sherman and his untimely departure the bonus track on 'Tribal Eulogy'- 'Razorwire, Guards, and Stone', is the original recording with Dave Sherman on bass. This track was just re-engineered by Chris Kozlowski.
J.D. Williams: We knew even after getting on the DC comp, and thanks to FJ and the Dawnrider / War Injun split 7", these songs had to be in a full record setting. We had drilled them by that point and they were getting good reactions live.
It seems that some of your lyrics as well as the album title and the cover artwork are strongly inspired by the culture of Native North Americans. Especially songs such as 'Ghostdance' and 'War Injun' deal with that topic and you criticizes the crimes, occupation and murders that were commited by the US-government and privat persons over the last decades against the Indian tribes. Am I correct with my assumption and does anyone in the band has Indian ancestors?
JB: The band name WAR INJUN is definetely inspired by the fact that both Kenny and myself have Cherokee Indian blood roots.
J.D. Williams: There is Cherokee and Navajo blood in the band, who were known to be enemies of one another. But even that is not true. The generals tried to cause a fight between them and failed. 'Ghostdance' is a Mohawk story. Three boys are selected by elders for a spirit ride, with no direction and no purpose, but to connect with the Creator of the gift, survive and return. It is witnessed by a nameless writer, from small child to young man until his chance. Only two will return, he was told.
Only two ever did and he and another rode home to their slaughtered village. 'War Injun' was one of the earlier songs we wrote as a full band. Its about the Alcatraz occupation in 1970. Mostly young Indians of all tribes took the feds up on an old as hell agreement from 1868, saying any government land that was abandoned could be occupied by any tribe or tribes. So they did. The powers to be didn't like it, and a mostly peaceful stand off lasted twenty months.
What is your personal point of view about their situation in the USA? Do you think that it has improved for the Native Americans?
JB: Quite frankly, it's disturbing to me. Native Americans are a minority that get looked down upon by the general public. Here in the states, we have a holiday called Columbus Day which remembers when Christopher Columbus "discovered" America in 1492.......How can you discover a nation that is already fully occupied??
J.D. Williams: Awareness has improved greatly, but some debts cant be repaid.
Can you imagine to support the Red Power Movement with WAR INJUN?
JB: Absolutely, without a doubt.
I would like to return to the remarkable cover artwork. What does it represent? Is it a Totem?
JB: The cover art is an actual totem that Kenny got from a Native American 'Pow-Wow'. A real rattlesnake head, horns, and a raccoon tail. We thought it would make a good album cover.
I can well imagine that I'm not the only one who would like to see a second album and possibly a tour here in Europe. What is the current status of WAR INJUN and are there any chances that my wishes come true?
JB: Only time will tell Klaus. But as for now, we are back together as a band and will begin rehearsing again next month. We have some completed, yet unreleased songs, as well as a few tracks in the making. Of course we would love to perform in Europe!
I keep my fingers crossed for you! What kind of music do you like and what was the last album you've bought?
JB: I like any music that can be described as HEAVY, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Slayer. The last album I bought was Lamb of God - 'Sacrament'.
As you may or may not know, I turn into a complete fanboy when it's about the heavy rock/doom community in Maryland/Virginia/DC. What are the latest news on the activities in this area? Any new bands or projects?
JB: No new bands to my knowledge Klaus, just some new releases from the "oldies but goodies".
Ok, that's all for now. I am very grateful that you both took the time to answer my questions. All the best for you.
JB: Thank you Klaus for your loyalty, support, and input. Your website rules.