Unfortunate Blessings

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Midmourner is sick…  Like canker sores with a side of toe-fungus and blown bile ducts sick.  Their thick, surly sludge dementia is as pure as the artform gets; miring itself in wails of corrosive feedback, clinically flatlined riffage, morphine drip blues grooves, inhuman vocal spawn, a rhythm section that smells of extinction and enough anger to put the band members’ in an institution for life.  With lunatics that have served time in seminal Alabama destruction squads Molehill and Residue, Midmourner have dropped a six song doozy with their debut EP, Adorned in Fear and Error.  It’s been great catching up with vocalist Shane George lately, since our last conversation via email many, many moons ago.  Crack a beer, raid the medicine cabinet and let’s have a little Q & A intoxication! 

Well shit fellas, glad to see some of you miscreants back in action and good to meet the rest of you fellas for the first time.  If it’s cool would each of you state your chosen method of destruction for Midmourner (instrument) and tell us how the band came together?

Midmourner:  Bobbie – guitar & lead feedback, Matt – all about that bass (no treble!), Chad – simple guitar (the 3 string master), Rick – RUBBLE SMASH PUNY DRUMS!, Shane – narrator.

Bobbie wanted to start a sludge band.  He went through various musicians but couldn’t mesh with them on any level. He convinced Shane (his best friend since junior high) to lend his non-talent, kicked out the last obstacle that remained, met up with Matt at an Eyehategod show, and the rest is uninteresting history. 

I was very into Molehill.  Enough to the point that I bought everything I could while I had money and even became Shane’s penpal for a bit through one of the pages (I think mp3.com).  Those were like my old football days of sludge, man.  I was hearing so many great bands…you had Berserker Records, Gametwo, Rhetoric, Shifty, Rage of Achilles putting out doom stuff…  Great days…  Why did Molehill split up and what fond memories do you have of that period of time?  I feel you really had to be a fan of this music then to get what was going on.  What was Molehill’s place in all of that?

Shane George:  Molehill’s demise came about because of several different reasons. Here’s a short list of the problems: alcoholism, jealousy, drug addiction, severe lack of communication, frustration.

There are way too many fond memories to try and fit in one interview, so I’ll just name a few: being picked up by a record label, touring across the country with some great bands, meeting countless numbers of incredible people, seeing all of our ugly mugs in the pages of Metal Hammer magazine, but, best of all, having the opportunity to write and play some great music with such close friends.

As far as Molehill’s place in that era, I’m not sure if I can give an accurate assessment. One thing I know is that our music connected with a shitload of people, and every now and then, the feedback we would get from fans would honestly feel amazing. Molehill played its part in the golden era of sludge music and it’s something that we are proud of. 

Matt Heath (bass) did Residue for a while afterwards which I really enjoyed.  I remember the demo and have the split with Stone of Abel (another very blink and you’ll miss ‘em awesome band!), and then that kind of disappeared.  I was hoping for more.  What ever happened to that?

Matt Heath:  Thanks man, it’s cool that you even remember Residue. We did that from 2000-2002, then I moved out of state in 2002. We always planned on getting back to it but life got in the way.  Then time passed and it just never happened.  The Molehill and Residue days were some of the best years of my life. I love those guys, they’ll always be family to me. 

Time seems to bring all good things back around to those who wait for it and while still keeping the faith.  Now we’ve got Midmourner which is music to my ears.  This really brings it full-circle again for me.  We’ve got riffs from hell, just the right amount of grooves, demented vocals, feedback…it’s THAT sound.  How is Midmourner a continuation of where you guys left off and how do you feel it brings it to the next level?  For me it’s the next evolution in sonic decimation from what some of you fellas were doing before.  Bobbie Harris…hmm, a relation to Molehill’s Sonny Harris by chance… 

Shane:  Obviously, the sound of Midmourner is going to pick up along the same lines as Molehill. Actually, all sludge bands are going to share that sound…whether it’s intentional or not.  The sound is similar to where we left off, but different enough to make this our own.  Time will tell if we have taken it to the next level, whatever that is.

Bobbie, Sonny, and myself have all been great friends since high school.  We bonded in art class and eventually, we bonded through music.  Although I may consider Bobbie & Sonny to be my brothers, there’s actually no relation between them at all.  I wish I had a dollar for every time that subject has come up. 

Adorned in Fear and Error is a really nasty recording.  Thick, creeping its way into your mind like a midnight prowler, just enough groove that the songs have their catch moments…  I mean, when this band got together was it pretty much decided that you fellas would be playing sludge?  What was the first song written and did you all get that old, special feeling whenever you finished jamming it out? 

Shane:  Yes, we had one direction that we wanted to take Midmourner – four blocks down Sludge Avenue!  From day one, we knew what our destiny would be.

The first song written was “Exchanging Piss for Ruin.”  It was just our second practice with Matt and it was like magic.  Immediately, we got that special vibe that all musicians ache for.  Next thing you know, we all got the warm and fuzzies and started playing with each other’s peckers! Love at first sight! 

How did you come up with the band name, Midmourner?  That’s a fuckin’ ace handle right there.  I was trying to look up the word to see if it was…um…an actual word, but all I could find was the band itself!  You fellas certainly coined that one.  It’s damn good n’ original and conjures up some imagery.  Explain, please! 

Shane:  I wish I had a really cool, elaborate story to go along with the Midmourner name, but I don’t.  It actually came out of the most difficult time of my life.  I have always been close with my mom, and she passed away.  I was depressed and grief stricken, but I knew that it was only the beginning, that the tremendous loss I felt was going to be a process, and a long one at that. Basically, I was in the midst of my mourning. Now, something positive has come out of that dark time in my life. I inherited my love of music from my mother.  Interesting side note: my mom was actually the president of The Beatles fan club…no shit!

First up Shane, you know I’m not stranger to loss.  Very sorry about your mom but glad you guys had that connection.  That’s cool as hell about the Beatles thing!  Whoa!  The EP’s production is sewn up tighter than a nun’s backdoor.  This isn’t your grandaddy’s lo-fi but there’s actual warmth and depth to all of the instruments, killer tones and a cohesive sound that makes everything deadlier than a venomous snake.  It’s not liable to be a pop hit that’s for damn sure, though the recording really brings the point home.  How did you stumble upon Matt Whitson and Magnetic Audio?  What was it like working with him and can you give any information about what else he’s done?  This is my first encounter and I’d love to check into anything else he’s recorded.

Shane:  Yeah, we were all stoked on how well the recording came out. Billy Luttrell (ex-Molehill drummer and current awesome dude!) introduced us to Matt Whitson, and we decided to go with him. He came highly recommended.  Matt actually won an Emmy award for a show he created that documents touring bands playing a set at a local venue called the Bottletree.  The show is called We Have Signal and it aired on Alabama Public Television. Matt has recorded several local bands that just happen to be our friends, and they were all very happy with the end results. The guy is incredible at what he does and we found him very easy to work with.  Slowly but surely, more people are finding this out. 

Everything just fits together for this all-encompassing blanket of smog sucking despair that never allows the listener to lift their head out of the bucket for a breath.  How does the writing process take shape?  The songs’ are written with all of these tense sections of hammering riffs and begotten feedback, shambling along like a night terror unleashed with the rhythm cutting through like a cleaver…then suddenly, you’ll whip into a groove like on “A Year Filled with Empty” and “Wolf in the Baby’s Crib.”  It’s gotta be a good time putting this filth together!  How much beer is required for the writing process? 

Shane:  The writing process is very easy.  Somebody comes in with a riff and we all try to add to it.  I know that’s a boring answer, but that’s the process.  If there’s a song that one of us isn’t feeling…it gets cut.  All the terror, paranoia, and nastiness is added later by a mentally challenged wizard! 

Shane, I gotta say, you’re one of the few sludge singers that sound even meaner after all these years have passed by.  My hats off to you and your vocal chords!  How do you do it?  That’s a starved, rabid scream you got.  What are the lyrics about?  Do you come up with those song-titles too?  They are fuckin’ sweet as shit…”Wolf in the Baby’s Crib,” “Exchanging Piss for Ruin,” “A Salting of Circles…”  Man, I wish I came up with any of those! 

Shane:  Thanks for the compliment and the veiled reference to my progressing age.  I’ve gotten some awesome feedback on my vocal performance on the EP, and I gotta say…I agree!  I see my horn and I shall tooteth that horn!  I train my voice using cigarettes, mountain dew, and the magical tears of a gypsy boy.  I’ve always kept the lyric content private in every band I’ve been in.  Again, I’m not trying to be a prick about any of it, but I feel like since I don’t actually play an instrument, the one thing that I have complete control over is the theme of a song.  All inspiration generally comes from inner torment brought on by my seemingly unnatural pessimism about everything in this world.  Basically, just your typical rants about hopelessness, despair, and physical and emotional pain. 

I also love that the vocals are raw throat meat.  Some folks have to use so many tricks to get an “extreme” sound and that’s really a turn-off for me.  The same thing with the instruments too…   You guys don’t skimp on the tones and the clarity comes through without anything feeling stripped of its power.  What really irks you guys in modern, cookie cutter metal and modern music in general?  There are still a lot of bands keeping it real, but Jesus is a lot of stuff processed to shit and back now!   

Shane:  I’ve never been one for artificial sounding vocals in heavy music. I’m sure that has its place in certain genres, but I try to make my performance as organic and true to life as possible. There is a lot that irks me about modern metal. Some bands spend a fortune recording an album only to make it sound like it was the mill heavy metal. It’s hard to explain, but it’s rather easy to notice while listening to the songs.  If a band can’t recreate live what they did in the studio, then what’s the point?  Maybe it’s just me.

I agree 100%.  “New and Unfortunate Blessing” feels like a sequel to Molehill’s “A Somewhat Considerable Burden” in terms of title and execution.  Is this true?  Tell us a little bit about how this song came into existence. 

Shane:  It is so fucking weird that you brought this up because I thought the same thing.  It’s not plagiarism or anything, but you can tell that there are members of Molehill in this band.  Matt brought in this song and the guys jammed too and actually got the song finished rather quickly. In my opinion, this song is probably the best composed song that we have.  By the way, the comparison to “A Somewhat Considerable Burden” is really a giant compliment, so thank you! 

Will Adorned in Fear and Error eventually see a physical release?  I see currently only two of the songs are up on the bandcamp and I was wondering if that was perhaps to test the waters and raise a little cash towards releasing it physically.  This shit deserves a home, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Shane:  Yeah, it’s going to see a physical release. We’re all busting our asses to push the music and get it into the hands of as many people as possible.  If for some reason we don’t happen to find a label to put it out, then I suppose the band will have to pool all our resources (food stamps, panhandling profits, aluminum can collecting) and put the thing out ourselves. We believe that the album quality is quite sufficient for a label to release it as it is. We feel the quality is that good…

What has the gigging been like surrounding the release of some recorded tunes?  How have the shows been going and who’s been a blast to play with thus far?  Will you be doing any touring once the release has made the rounds a bit?

Shane:  It’s kinda embarrassing, but we’ve only played three shows since we started the band. The guys get really anxious to play out live, but it’s rather hard to get a new band that isn’t well known to venues or promoters onto the bill.  Midmourner has to earn its stripes like every other band and this city has a tendency to be quite clique-ish.  Hog Mountin, Marrow, Capsized, and Season of Arrows are some cool bands we’ve played with.  I encourage readers to check them out.  I hope we can put together some touring very soon.

Nothing embarrassing about that at all, it’s comes down to the quality of shows not the quantity.  Does Alabama’s live scene (and band circuit in general…even recorded/documented) have a lot of heavy stuff, or have you guys always been kind of an anomaly?  I know a couple of bands past and present, but honestly I can’t think of too many.  What’s it like playing out now when compared with olden days nearly a decade ago?

Shane:  Alabama has always had its share of heavy bands.  The majority of underground music here in Birmingham has always been punk rock and metal based bands.  However, the heavier, doom/sludge style has been significantly less represented.  Every now and then a cool heavy band would sprout up here and there.  Usually, it was the same people involved in each band, and more than likely…all the band members were good friends of ours.  It’s sad to say but the heavy scene was a lot bigger and more close knit ten years ago.  I don’t mean to sound like a crotchety old man, but that’s honestly how I feel.

Are there any other songs that are pretty much fully written or even jammed to completion that we haven’t heard yet?  If there’s other material sneaking around, what is it like…if not, what will future material be like?  Don’t spill any beans that you’re uncomfortable spilling.  Surprise, is always an excellent weapon to have at one’s disposal.   

Shane:  Yeah, we currently have two other songs that are done.  We’re saving them in case we can find someone who may want to put out a 7” split with another band, or perhaps a cool compilation.  That’s the best part of band practice, in my opinion.  The actual building of the song out of just an idea or a single riff.

What influences everybody in this band?  Musically and you can feel free to throw in life experience as well.  Let’s start musically first…old and new, what music inspired you fellas to do what you do?  I’ll take the second part of this question deeper in a minute. 

Matt:  I cut my teeth on The Beatles.  Then later Bad Brains, Black Flag, Ramones, Descendents, the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Joy Division, Townes Van Zandt.  When I started going to shows and getting into more underground music it was Cavity, Melvins, Floor, Buzzoven, EHG, Sleep. Too many more to list. Other than that I’m influenced by life; by my daughter, Brooklyn, by my friends and family and, of course, by my band.  I’ve been playing in bands for over 20 years now and in this one I’m happier than I think I’ve ever been about any of my old bands.  Just as far as the guys in the band and the way we get along, we’re just always on the same page.  And we have a blast playing these songs, always working on new stuff.  I just seriously love playing music with this band.

Bobbie:  The reason I started playing sludge is that my life has been full of disappointment and regret.  I suffer from a mild case of depression and frustration.  Cavity is one of my all-time favorites along with Buzzov*en and Eyehategod.

Rick:  A lot of various musicians honestly, all across the board, although I find Weedeater and Bongzilla really got my attention.  Sludge is a way for me to be honest in the music I play, and it also gives me anger release.  As the guys will tell you, I play angry!  There’s an honesty in sludge that I don’t feel in any other music.

Chad:  I grew up skateboarding and jamming at house parties. I’d say 80s hardcore and gangsta rap influence and propel my terror.

Shane:  The hopelessness of poverty and a broken family influenced practically every aspect of my life personally and definitely musically. Influential bands include Flaming Lips, COC, Black Flag, Scrog, Cavity, EHG, Avail, Kilara, Grief, Godflesh, Gorilla Biscuits, Spazz, Mephotis.

Wow, the lists you just made pretty much echo a lot of my inspirations.  Damn, nice on the Kilara mention too.  Those guys don’t get enough credit.  Okay…deep time…deeper than a dredge boat in the water (Cavity 7” reference…he he he)…  What makes us play “sludge” fellas?  What is that special feeling we have that makes our music come out slow and twisted….our voices mangled and in pain…and our ideals on the fringe…  I was a sludge singer before I ever sang in a sludge band.  My voice was always louder singing my favorites, always twisting the lines…  Are folks in a sludge band like prophets, informers of that darker side of life and is the way we project seemingly more “normal” things always inherently damaged?  Most of us, band members and fans alike, are all pretty banged up in some way.  Bad luck, strugglin’ through the days, addictions, the law…the outlaw life at one point or another…  You look at EHG, Buzz, Iron Monkey, 16…  I could go on and on, but there’s a similarity in the way so many sludge bands operate when dealing simply with life and many seem to have a tragic adversity or happening that inflicts them all.  I’m trying to get to the root here of what creates this type of music and what elicits us to play it?  Black Sabbath is probably most of everybody’s problem, but even that, we damaged it even further.  What is it about this sound that speaks to the soul and what conditions necessitate the creation of this type of music?   

Shane:  You really dug deep on this question.  When I think about it, you partially answered your own question.  One thing that I have noticed from all the years I’ve been involved in this music, as a fan and a musician, is that there does indeed seem to be a sort of sludge personality type.  I believe it’s a mindset and a worldview about our surroundings.  It’s easy to see that the society mankind has built for itself is fated to crumble.  Most people choose to ignore this fact and make the decision to go ahead and play their individual part.  It’s those few that open their eyes and discover the ugly truth about life and society that seem to share the same outlook on so many aspects of life.  Hopelessness and apathy and all out depression about everything is an ill- advised way to go through each day.  However, this state of mind comes with its own soundtrack.  Sludge and doom style music feel tailor made for the journey through all the muck, slime, and endless miles of shit that we go through every fucking day.  Sludge is a feeling. Sludge is a pure emotion set to the sound of a dying world.  It’s a snapshot of struggle, tragedy, addiction, adversity, and shared misery. 

Beautifully state, brother!  Vitus maybe said it best with the song and album Born too Late, huh?  That’s still such a great take on it.  At the end of the day, we do it because it’s in our blood.  What is everybody doing when they’re not slamming through decay in Midmourner?  Hobbies, other bands, etc…

Matt:  Besides playing in Midmourner, I write and play other music.  I have a couple of things in the works.  I’m also working on a book about the music scene in Birmingham during the 1990s, and a couple of other book projects, I’m also a single father so that keeps me occupied.

Chad:  Hobbies include pimping hoes, a terrible addiction to movies, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new music to pimp hoes by.

Bobbie:  An avid collector of comic books…and I mean AVID collector!  Searching high and low for interesting records to add to my ridiculous vinyl collection, and I’m a much celebrated aficionado of cannabis and its various incarnations.

Rick:  Burning furniture in the back yard with my lovely wife, serving friends half cooked chicken fresh off the grill, not reading….seriously, the smoking of marijuana and performing duties as father and husband.

Shane:  I have a serious love for abstract expressionist and surrealist painting.  I think I’m pretty good, but then again, it’s not up to me.  When I’m not smoking cigarettes, I dabble in writing poetry and short stories.  I have a serious obsession for the study of world religions and philosophy.  Daily activities include being an awesome husband, perfecting my cynicism, and hating everything that exists.

Finally for the gearheads and without giving away any secret recipes, what type of equipment is used to bring this sound to life?  I imagine drums played with tree trunks for sticks, amps taller than Paul Bunyan and a bass guitar that doubles as a nuclear device. 

Matt:  Matamp, mysterious and magical bass

Rick:  Ddrum, Sabian & Paiste

Bobbie:  Marshall, Gibson, Les Paul

Chad:  Ibanez, Pro-Co, Lace, Les Paul

Shane:  Bronchitis/windpipe/vocal chords that God gave me 

Well fellas, I think I’m out of ammunition.  If I forget anything, please feel free to let me know in this final space here.  It’s been a pleasure and I can’t wait to see what Midmourner unleashes on the unsuspecting masses next.  Thanks a ton for doing this interview and for the killer fuckin’ music!                    

Shane:  We really appreciate all the help and support that you have given us in the past year or so.  Thanks a lot for the interview.  The whole band sends its deepest gratitude to the unfortunate music lovers who managed to stumble upon our music or band page, and, for some reason, actually enjoyed what they heard.  Hopefully, we are finally gonna get to work and play some shows throughout the South in order to get the Midmourner name out there for the public. We’re currently searching for a record label interested in putting out a proper release of our new EP, Adorned in Fear and Error.  After achieving these things, world domination is sure to come!

https://midmourner.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/midmourner00

 

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