Apocalyptic Warriors

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Bassist/vocalist Jon Necromancer, drummer Joe Warlord, and guitarist Carcass Chris are veterans of the Chicago metal scene who knew exactly what they wanted to do when the self-titled debut from Bones was recorded. Screw pretension, fuck marathon studio sessions, and to hell with anything that isn’t made from a vocal, a bass line, a guitar riff, and drum beat. A power trio on multiple levels Bones brings it hard from note one, grooves it up, breaks it down to its bare essence, and kicks a ridiculous amount of ass in the process. Since all are ex-members of defunct Chicago legends Usurper, vagaries of that sound are present. But even more prominent is a bludgeoning, raw, and righteously rockin’ vibe that fuses the styles of bands like Master, Venom, and vintage-era Motorhead in a way that is 100 percent Bones. Jon Necromancer breaks it down even further for us. [DISCLAIMER: This interview, as well as the album review, was written before Bones became a client of ClawHammer PR, so don’t think for a moment that there is some insidious connection between the two.]

How long had Bones been in the works before you released the self-titled album?

Oh probably about ten years ago. Me and Joe were in Usurper in the old days…

Oh yeah, one of my favorites.

That’s cool. Joe was in Usurper in the beginning and then he left for eight or nine years, and then he came back. Well, when he came back me and him bonded right away. He’s a phenomenal drummer. Being a bass player in metal is frustrating because usually the bass player just copies what the guitar is playing; there was never a lot of room for a real rhythm section where the bass and drums work as a counterpoint to the rest of the band and all that kind of stuff, kind of like all those 70s bands used to do, which made it really cool. Then Usurper broke up. So I was playing in two other bands around 2009. Usurper broke up in 2007 and by 2009 I was playing in Kommandant and then I was playing live in Nachtmystium for a couple of years. For Kommandant I was on the Iron Hands of Scandinavia demo and Stormlegion. I was trying to write tunes for both bands and it just wasn’t really fitting; the tunes I gave to Kommandant just wasn’t really sounding like Kommandant and the stuff I gave to Nachtmystium didn’t really sound like Nachtmystium. I was just realizing that I had been in someone else’s bands for like 15 years. For Usurper it was really the rhythm guitar player’s [Rick Scythe] brainchild; he wrote some of the tunes, most of the lyrics, and it was his vision, so we were just happy to go along and we were such good friends for such a long time. But I had a bunch of songs I was jamming on and Joe was jamming in a proggy, technical type of metal band and I just called him up and said “Hey man, we just need to get together and fuck all this stuff.” So I quit Kommandant to make more time and Joe had quit his band. So we went to my basement and started working and had four tunes we started off with and that was it; it was about two years ago in July in 2009. Then we got Chris in that year to play guitar. We wanted to keep it a three-piece because all the best bands are three-pieces; it’s just some of the best rock ‘n roll. Even a band like The Who are a four piece with the vocalist, but it’s just one guitar, one bass, and one drummer. You can really do a lot with that. Everything nowadays is so overproduced and so over-thought-out and overdone. Any sense of rock ‘n roll is just lost. Like being in the studio for 30 days. Why? [laughs].

So how long did you take to record the album?

Three days. We recorded for three days and then we mixed it on the fourth day.

I wouldn’t have guessed it was Sanford Parker that recorded it because he’s always got these big sonic-sounding albums, though not overproduced or glossy by any means. But on the Bones album it seems like he kept it raw and true to the sound you wanted, which was very live.

It was recorded very live. We went to Electric Audio here in Chicago. The building is like two and a half stories tall, concrete block, and there is really an awesome reverb in the room, so we wanted that for the drums. We just set up in there and we didn’t have a lot of money for one thing, so we had to make the album quick. We discussed whether we should do a demo first and should we do this or that, and then we talked to Chris [Black] from Planet Metal. We didn’t have a lot of cash, but wanted to go to a good studio and use Sanford as producer and we didn’t want it to sound “produced.” We just wanted to have all the raw materials at our disposal and then just kick it out and have someone behind the board that could really capture all of it. We recorded the drums, guitar, and bass pretty much live. We didn’t double-track any guitars; we didn’t double-track any anything.

And that’s one of the aspects of the album that I really enjoy. When there is a guitar solo, you hear bass and drums holding down the rhythm and that’s it, which is something you just don’t hear a lot these days. It works really well. Of course, you’ve got to have good players so everyone is capable of holding up his end, and you’ve obviously got that part nailed. It’s refreshing to hear it.

Yeah, and to play it is certainly fun. You’ve got to be on your game; there’s no fuckin’ around. We even have the bass hard-left and the guitar hard-right, just like they had in the 70s. Manowar used to do that. It’s cool and it has such a really classic sound like how it used to be done. Nowadays things are so layered and overdone. It’s cool because it has this element of danger when you try to pull it off; like the train is coming so fast and it seems like it might careen off the tracks at any moment [laughs]. You’re right on the edge and that’s what makes rock ‘n roll what it is. And that’s what Bones is, just a bastard version of rock ‘n roll. A lot of the danger has been lost over the years.

The danger is definitely key; that’s what got me into it rock ‘n roll or metal in the first place.

Totally! You get that thing in the pit of your stomach and it’s like holy fuck!

I think I already know the answer and you probably get tired of getting asked this, but starting a band with three ex-Usurper members did it ever cross your mind to just go the rest of the way and try to get Usurper reformed?

No actually. I mean we talked about it a little bit. We talked about doing a Usurper reunion a couple years ago and were going to try to do a show, but Usurper is just over. I don’t know any other way to put it. And Rick has got his own band too anyway.

And you were in Usurper from the beginning, right?

I joined in December of ’94. They had already made a demo they put out, but I was on the first album [Diabolosis].

Usurper is still the only thrash/death band I know that’s covered Ted Nugent’s “Stormtroopin’” [other than Blood Cult busting out part of it within one of its own songs].

[Laughs] That cover I wish was a little bit better [laughs]. It’s a phenomenal riff; the Nuge is the man.

I know you had been playing some shows well before the album was released, including the Planet Metal showcase in Chicago.

Yeah, it was with Kommandant and Wastelander and Sauron. We just played a show last Saturday with Nunslaughter and Acid Witch who are from Detroit, and Absconder. That was a great show too.

As I listen to the album one of the things that comes to mind is that it has got a rock ‘n roll and dirty boogie to it, not unlike Motorhead.

[laughs] Ok

But it really does rock and in that regard and has a Motorhead vibe in a general sense. I mean “March of the Dead” right off the bat is like a deathier/thrashier version of Motorhead really, which is not saying this sounds like a Motorhead album by any means. And you have a central delivery that bludgeons like Master.

Yeah, I mean it’s not like we set out to have a Motorhead vibe or anything like that.

Well, it is really more in the way of that smoke-billowing locomotive pace.

Yeah, and the bass drone is dirty like Lemmy’s is and a lot of times we play up an octave on the riff, which is a classic Motorhead signature sound. Motorhead is just one of those bands that stick with you forever, so it’s warped into part of my DNA somehow. And as a three-piece band we are trying to fill up all that space and the way that Lemmy plays bass – and he’s the master – he plays a lot like a guitar to fill some of those voids, so that might be part of it. When you’re playing it you don’t really hear what you sound like so much; you are so involved in trying to accomplish the mission or whatever.

What are you hearing from others as far as what Bones sounds like? To me it’s like, “yep, this sounds like a Chicago metal band in the classic underground tradition.” Of course, you can’t get around some of the Usurper sounds either.

Yeah, I mean there isn’t anyone in the band that wasn’t in Usurper. We don’t want it to be Usurper II, but at the same time it’s inevitable. Joe plays drums the way he plays drums; Chris plays the way that we play and he played in Usurper for a long time. When you are in a band for 13 years it leaves a mark. It influences the way you listen to tunes and the way you hear things and play things. It’s in there and it will probably never go away. I think maybe it’ll phase out slowly as we find more of our own identity. The stuff we’re writing right now is a little bit different than what you heard on the album; it’s not a totally different vibe or anything, but it’s more in the rock ‘n roll spirit.

If you’re doing even more of that, then that’s great because another aspect of the album that is done extremely well is in those crescendos and you really know how to break it down and shift gears. The shifts from high speed to mid-tempo grab you. There are several songs like that, while “666” just has that classic dirty groove.

That’s the spot where we feel most comfortable, making a change like that. It’s a lot of fun. What’s a drag about being in a other metal bands besides Usurper is you’re just playing along and you have to phone it in sometimes; like where the song is one-tempo all the time or there aren’t many changes or variation, or it’s a subtle variation on the same riff. It’s cool to mess around with an odd time signature or do something else. And Joe is the secret weapon on drums. He just has a natural knack for changing it up. Like I’ll write a riff with a straight 4/4 beat in my head and show it to him and he’ll turn it around and screw it all up and it’s like “Oh wow, that’s a totally different way of looking at that!” It really helps our sound.

Even toward the end of “666” where you are just riding it out it’s so cool to hear.

It’s just fun to play. We didn’t really think about a lot of things before we did them [laughs]. Four of the tunes I had before we started jamming and we messed with them a little, but the rest we pretty much did together. We’d just have a riff and we’d jam out for a while, smoke some weed at practice, drink about case of beer, and by the time we’re done it sounds totally different and we know we’re going in the right direction and it’d be on to the next one.

At the end of the day this album just bleeds “Chicago.” It’s difficult to explain it to folks that haven’t been exposed to it, but there is a certain tone and somewhere along the line you hear a common theme, like something that reaches back to Hellhammer or whatever. That could be Cianide or Cardiac Arrest or some of the older bands; you just know it when you hear it and it’s the same with Bones. Does that make sense?

Oh it does! You’re reading off names and I’m thinking about how every summer there is also a barbeque or parties or whatever. Like at the Cianide house and the Cardiac Arrest guys are there and we’re all there, and there is a barbeque going on and in the background someone is playing Venom, and we’re getting drunk, a couple of dudes are getting high by the garage and that literally is Chicago; it’s kind of how we all operate. The guys are very similar. You go down to jam and get drunk and a couple years later you have an album. There is no super group quality or wanting to sell a bunch of records; there is no drive or ambition for popularity or success. It’s more a natural, organic thing; everybody just loves metal or music and we all just love playing.






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