The Hitchhiker's Guide to Filth, Fury, and Mental Trauma

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The fact that Wisconsin’s Desolatevoid is not a household name in the extreme metal underground is a fucking crime. Perhaps some bands are just meant to be tunnel dwellers. Nah, screw that, it’s time for you and all your friends to grab a copy of debut album Self Medicated Psycho Therapy and new long player No Sign of Better Times and find out what happens when you put crust punk and NOLA metal into a blender. The music is pissed off, calamitous, and abrasively groovy, while the lyrics are a few hairs short of complete dementia. Schizoid vocalist Andy Howard, guitarists Mark Stolp and Brent K, drummer Tim Smith, and bassist/CAH Records chief Nick Carroll discuss what makes Desolate Void tick and why you’re probably too much of a pansy to handle this kind of sonic terror.

Let’s begin with some background. You formed in 2003 and had a few member changes since. Talk about how everyone came together, the vision you had for the band, how you came up with the name, etc. Did you all know each other and are you from the same general area? 

Andy Howard: I took the name Desolate Void from Neptune Towers’ To Cold Void Desolation. Desolate Void to me is what Neptune Towers would be if forced onto earth; a fucked up pissed off misanthrope. Also, Matt McNallie was the original 2nd guitarist, but had to move away for school and now plays guitar in Risingfall. 

Tim Smith: Some of us have known each other for nearly 20 years. Patrick Sova and me created Desolate Void as a side project from other bands. Six months later everyone involved realized it would be the main band since our first show had more people than our previous bands. 

Nick Carroll: I originally came in after their original bass player Noah quit. I have known these guys for a few years now. Yeah, we all live in Eau Claire. 

Mark Stolp: We have a history as friends that goes back 20 years. I met Howard and Tim when we were around 14 years old. We’ve been friends and jammed together since high school. 

When Nick entered the fold, were you already thinking about releasing the album on Crimes Against Humanity or did that come along with him? 

TS: It didn’t cross our minds at all before he joined the band.

NC: I had seen DV multiple times way before I even thought about joining the band and always knew there was something special, as the songs in my opinion just kicked ass. I had thought about releasing something for DV, but wasn’t quite sure how serious the band was. Once Brent and I joined it seemed like we had a solid lineup and I knew we were ready to take the next step with releasing an album on CAH. 

Talk about the musical background and influences of each member. 

AH: This is most members’ first band that anyone would have heard of outside of Eau Claire, WI. As a band we’re influenced by, in no particular order, classic rock, 90s NOLA scene. Jimi Hendrix, Slayer, Rolling Stones, Pantera, Soilent Green, Eyehategod, Goatwhore, Superjoint Ritual, old Roadrunner bands, Motorhead, COC, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Dimebag, Randy Rhoads, thrash, GG Allin, and Johnny Cash. 

TS: Anything that doesn’t suck. 

NC: I was previously in Legion of Doom, a crust band, back in the late 90s, but other than that I haven’t been in any other bands. 

BK: I’ve been playing music since I was a kid. It didn’t matter if it was punk or metal; all that mattered is that the guitar playing was loud and kicked ass. 

Would you say there is a certain “sound” that everyone agrees Desolate Void should have or is there more give and take with how you write songs? Or both?  

AH: Both. Whatever jams and feels like something one or all of us feel. 

TS: We experiment with different stuff, but it has to feel like a Desolate Void song. 

MS: We have a variety of songs with different styles, but with us all playing it’s going to sound like the Void. 

NC: I’d say there is a certain sound we’re going for that we all agree on, but it’s hard to describe. We just know it when we hear it. There’s some give and take on songs, but we usually always agree on which songs we want to play that Tim writes. 

Along those same lines, your sound has been described as a mix of NOLA metal – Soilent Green, Eyehategod, etc) – and crust punk (at least by me). In general, I’d say this is a band with a dirty, drug addled sound covered in crust and with punk elements, but metal is most evident in the sound. Would you agree or disagree? How would you describe it on both albums? 

AH: Pissed off and unfocused on Self Medicated Psycho Therapy. Pissed off and focused on No Sign of Better Times. 

TS: We have a ton of influences and it just comes out that way, like a melting pot for all sorts of styles. 

NC: I’d agree pretty much exactly. I have metal friends that say we’re a punk band and punk friends who say we’re a metal band. Labeling us has been quite hard for most people. 

MS:  It’s not like we’re even trying to do that. It just comes out that way. 

BK: I agree. You’re not the only one who sees the crust influence in our music. 

I also hear some groove elements too, kind of like southern metal strut (ala some COC).

 TS:  Yeah, I agree because bands like COC, Down, and Skynyrd all come out. They are just as important as… 

BK: Napalm Death or Black Sabbath. Any era COC albums kick ass. Whenever I play one of my Les Pauls, I like to switch to the neck pickup and start jamming “Albatross.” That always gets me going. 

Vocalist Andy Howard is a huge part of the unhinged sound you get on the record – the approach is unsettling and psychotic, somewhere between Ben Falgoust and Phil Anselmo (generally speaking), but with an identity all his own. Talk about Andy’s style and contribution to the music. 

AH: Thanks, but I’ve always only tried to be myself. I only contribute a “human voice” to the music. I believe music is the only true expression of emotion. I would rather be negatively positive than suicidal or dead, if that makes sense at all. 

NC: I think his style of vocals is essential for the style we play, and the pure evil sound of them is awesome. I wouldn’t change the vocal style in any way. The lyrics are also awesome and seem to fit most of our general attitudes. 

BK: It’s awesome that he’s got the ability to do what he can do. Any sort of extreme or underground sort of vocal style he can pull off. One of the reviews we got for Self Medicated Psycho Therapy praised Andy for his abilities to mix up the vocal styles, siting that in heavy music there are way too many vocalists that just resort to monotone shouting. I agree with that statement. I guarantee you that Andy Howard will never just phone it in and resort to bland shouting. He’ll mix it up to keep it interesting and unsettling. 

In fact, the feeling one gets from the albums in general is something akin to things on the verge of coming apart or running off the rails. Know what I mean? 

AH: Yes and if you feel that, you know how I’ve felt every day since birth. 

TS: I kind of see it when I hear it, it feels like its coming apart, but yet the songs are still jelled together. Our songs are not super technical like death metal, but not sloppy either. It’s part of our personalities. Our lives are usually running off the rails. 

BK: Yeah, the chaos of the music reflects the chaos we have to deal with in our lives. 

Your original guitar player Pat Sova was in an accident. Please discuss the impact  it had on the band, any benefit shows for him, and how you ended up with Mark Stolp as his replacement. 

NC: Patrick Sova was involved in an auto accident in November of 2006 and is (as of this interview in Jan 2009) still in the hospital. He’s had a ton of complications through the last couple years. It’s had a huge impact on the band. It was super hard continuing without Pat, but he wanted us to keep going so we continue this band as a tribute to Pat. On stage there may be five of us, but we consider our band a six-person band. We’ve put on a few benefits for him raising as much cash as we could, but Pat still really needs help financially. We ended up with Mark in the band because Pat told us he’d like Mark in the band to play and he’s very talented and was a friend of the band also. 

You’ve got a split release with The Last Van Zant coming up. How did this come about it and how does the music compare to your full-length releases. How many songs will you have on it? Will it be released on CAH? 

NC: it came about pretty easily actually. The Last Van Zant sent me a copy of their demo, which just floored me. It was probably the best demo I’ve ever received in all the years I’ve run my label. Normally, I’d offer them a release right away, but the decline of album sales, taking on a brand new band, and getting the album to sell is super hard to do. I figured a split CD would be a good alternative because there are two bands on it that will hopefully introduce each band to the others fans. It’s a continuation of our previous songs and there will be four brand new songs and one re-recorded from the first album. It’ll be released on CAH on CD, but we don’t have anyone to release it on vinyl. 

TS: The songs on the split were just songs that we felt didn’t belong on the last album and decided they would go good on a split. 

MS: The songs sound like the last album, but didn’t fit with the concept of the last one. 

Speaking of Crimes Against Humanity, what are the advantages of having a member of Desolate Void actually own the label that releases its CDs? 

TS: We know we’re not getting ripped off. It’s not like there’s money to be made. We always get what we expect. 

NC: In some ways I feel like it hurts us, as I feel people may think I only release our albums because I’m in the band, which isn’t true in any way at all. 

BK: We get the freedom to make the sort of music that we want to make and not have to worry about conforming to flavor of the month trends that tend to make music boring and predictable. Nick also owns and operates his own shirt printing company. That way we don’t have to deal with some middleman for merchandise. 

Incidentally, nice job with the clever song title, “Crimes Against my Sanity.” 

TS: It’s a catchy song title that sticks in people’s heads. We try not to use one-word generic song titles like a lot of bands do. 

The two albums are dissimilar to most of the releases on CAH, although bits of the CAH “sound” (punk elements, crust, etc) are there. 

NC: While they are dissimilar to most CAH releases, I’ve actually released everything from crust to death metal to black metal. I’ve done a huge variety of music, but for some reason CAH seems to be known mostly as a “crust” label. 

BK: The first disc is the most dissimilar due to the NOLA sludge feel of it. The two CAH bands that we’re closest to, sound-wise, would be Face Down in Shit and Neuron. No Sign of Better Times is a little closer, thanks to songs like “Isolation Embrace”. 

Talk about your approach to recording in general and how it may have differed on both Self Medicated Psycho Therapy and No Sign of Better Times. The same goes with the songwriting. 

TS:  The songwriting is fucked up because on the first album we had primarily one songwriter, but on the second we had three contributing to the songs. 

NC: Our main goal when recording is to make the album sound as close as possible to the way we sound live. 

BK: Both CDs were tracked in Andy’s basement with Jamie Hanson as our engineer. Once all the instruments are tracked, Howard comes in and does his thing. 

I would also say that the production of both albums is perfectly fitting to the style. I do recall commenting in the review for the first album that the drums could stand more “thud” and “crack,” but I didn’t even think about it this time. Minor shit anyway. The sound is loose and raw, but not “lo-fi” or sloppy, if that makes any sense. This does not sound like a Pro-Tools recording.  

NC: Yeah, we’ve got a sound on the album we like since it sounds like we do live. The production on the second album in my opinion is a lot better than the first because we spent a hell of a lot more time mixing it. 

BK: The sound really comes together during mixing or the “frequency fights” as Jamie likes to call it. Jamie gets us some initial mixes, we all listen to it on a variety of playback devices and talk about what we liked and didn’t like about it. Eventually, after a few rounds of mixing, we end up with something we all think is a good sounding disc. 

AH: We want to sound on CD like a band does when playing in the basement at practice. 

MS: We record in the basement. 

TS: We want an organic sound on our albums. 

“Medicating” seems to come up in one form or another on both albums. Coincidence?   

TS: We all medicate in certain ways. 

NC: Medication is very important to all of us. 

I’m thinking of songs like “Amongst the Scattered Pills” and “Cuts, Bruises, and an Empty Wallet” (“I woke up today with vomit in my hair” = fucking brilliant!). Talk about those songs, as well as the lyrical themes in general. 

AH: “Amongst the Scattered Pills” was written 13 years ago – combine extreme hatred for everything human, and mass doses of pain pills, Saint Vitus, Darkthrone, Eyehategod and my own brain, and you have that song. I think “Cuts” is self explanatory to any alcoholic or obsessive compulsive addict. Escape reality, into Desolate Void, and then come back.

As for the new album, why the title No Sign of Better Times? It fits, given the current climate, by the way. 

AH:  It fits us and everyone we’ve known for many years now. It’s the shit we were going through in our personal lives. The title just happened to come at a time when the world caught up with us. 

TS: It has to do with us and our bad luck, Pat’s accident, and the pure anger over Pat not being in the band anymore. It seems like every day one of us is constantly getting fucked over. Someone in the band always has bad news. We compare at practice each week who has had the most fucked up shit happen since the last practice.

It sounds as though you were concerned that the album art would be construed as racist, but that’s not even remotely true. Talk about the album art. 

NC: I was talking to Bo from the Last Van Zant and he mentioned people down south might take the cover as a racist lynching, so our main concern is letting people know that it’s not anything like that at all. 

TS: We just wanted old depressing photos on the album. 

MS: We wanted a pretty grim scene, the black and white old photography. The cover is part of history. It’s cool because the cover almost looks like a band jamming, but they’re all strung up and dead. People are watching a show, just not a band, but instead a show of people dying. 

AH: The album cover represented how we felt as a band. 

BK: The front cover was chosen because it’s a powerful image that fit the overall theme of the album. 

How have the press and fans received the albums? Were you surprised? Disappointed? Perplexed? 

NC: The response has been great, in fact better then we ever expected, but it’s been really hard to get the attention for these albums that we feel they deserve. 

TS: I was surprised that anyone gave a shit. 

BK: I was surprised by the positive press that we got from the metal scene for Self Medicated Psycho Therapy. I knew we’d get decent reviews, but I didn’t think we’d get that much of a positive response. 

Are you happy with where you are at as a band now? 

TS : We do it for ourselves, so we’re happy for anything positive. 

BK: Musically speaking, I’m totally happy with where we’re at. I would like to try and tour, but we’ve got a few catch-22s we need to overcome before that will happen. Unlike some bands out there, leeching off of our parents isn’t an option for us, so we have to ensure that we make enough money on a tour so we don’t come back home to massive debt and eviction notices. 

NC: We play for us and if people like it, then cool. I’m happy with where we’re at, but feel like there’s a lot of people that would be highly into our music if they heard it. 

What’s coming up next for Desolate Void?  

AH: We’re breaking up. Just joking… We plan on playing shows and slowly writing new songs and putting out a new album in one to two years if we don’t die first with our terrible luck. 

BK: We’re going to keep writing songs and try to play as many shows as our schedules will allow.

 Any closing comments? 

NC: Thanks to anyone who actually purchases our songs without stealing them online. 

TS:  Thanks to anyone who gives a shit.


  1. Commented by: Rev

    I lived in Eau Claire for 3 years, but was too consistently drunk to catch a live show.

  2. Commented by: Delilah

    Desolate Void is some kick you in your gut metal that everyone should take the time to hear. Live shows are phenomenal and leave your heart pumping and your insides ripped out and replaced with a big ball of grrrr. I love the way Howard writhes around on the floor of the stage in a GG Allinesque way. It makes it all more clear that they are musicians first, entertainers second. It seems that many bands in Eau Claire lack the emotion and talent needed to be a musician. There is more to performing than being a party band. It takes integrity, talent and kick your teeth in sound.

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