Troglodytes of Rock

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It’s getting harder to be heavy AND original these days.  In the world of riffing it seems a template was created and thusly many are following along instead of attempting to pioneer something different.  I think I can say with certain sanctity that Palace in Thunderland are doing something different and succeeding.  These guys have been around for a long time (over a decade) and are a home to members of esteemed bands Black Pyramid, Blue Aside and Space Mushroom Fuzz.  They took a five year break, returning from the void with an exciting vision collecting together the best of 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s heavy rock.  There’s no aping, lifting, copycatting, etc.  The foursome simply calls upon their idols for inspiration, taking the asteroid handed down by the elders and crashing it into Earth.   I sit down at the edge of the universe for an interview meet n’ greet with these entheogenic lifeforms.

Greetings space men, thank you for during this interview with me.  A few of us have crossed paths before in altered forms.  Please introduce yourselves; name and rank for the readers please!  

Adam Abrams:  I’m Adam, I am the bass player

Andy Beresky:  Hey, I’m Andy, and I’m a huge ABBA fan….

Monte Newman:  I’m Monte, on Guitars/Vocals/Spaceship Landing Noises & Sound Effects 

Palace in Thunderland was deactivated for roughly five years before returning to a heightened level of operation with the Stars, Dreams, Seas EP.  That EP blew my mind to put it lightly.  Everyone was busy during the downtime…there was Black Pyramid going, Blue Aside, Space Mushroom Fuzz…  When was it decided that the time was right for a return and what circumstances allowed it to happen?

Adam:  Monte and Andy started jamming again and called me to jam too.  I was psyched to play with them again and even more psyched that they already had some cool songs written by the time I did join them.

Monte:  For me to answer this, I have to give you a quick flashback of what was going on at the time.  When Palace fell apart back then, it was mostly due to the internal stress of all of the administrative/ business side of things.  We were also becoming a very toxic situation, as we all had our own “issues” with one substance or another, or perhaps different realities.  This really didn’t make for a whole lot of motivation or cooperation between us.  Temporarily, it sidelined some pretty close friendships.  Adam, Matt, and I actually glued together a really sketchy set to play a couple of shows that were still on the books.  Eh… It certainly wasn’t Palace.

We tried to put another band together with the 3 of us, but we only wrote a couple of songs. After that, Adam kept to the Boston Area and got involved in a lot of different projects, while Matt and I started a band called HydroElectric. We wrote quite a bit, but eventually I got caught up in some other projects, and Hydro got sidelined momentarily.  Matt joined with Adam, creating Blue Aside.  Andy was already making some waves with Black Pyramid by then, and eventually I got HydroElectric up and running again.  So, there we were…everyone in different projects doing our own things.  We all were actively gigging and had at least an album for each band.  I kind of equate that to all of us going away to ninja music training facilities in unknown solar systems.

Here is where it gets to the answer part; the old hurt feelings and toxic shit had subsided over time, and we had all been talking to each other here and there, especially as we would cross paths just in the local music scene.  Andy was booking shows for one of our favorite venues, and I’m pretty sure all of our bands passed through there on occasion.  When I heard the Andy was done with Black Pyramid, the first thing I decided was that I was putting Palace back together one way or another.  I kept in touch with everyone and kept planting seeds as I could.  Andy and I got together here and there and just jammed out for fun.  No matter what, it was going to be no pressure and no expectations.

At one point, we even had the original drummer playing with us, because I hadn’t yet convinced Matt that this was going to happen.  The end result is that some new material came from the jams, Matt eventually came around, and I ended HydroElectric.  My neighborhood was not going to deal with two bands practicing. But hey…Palace was back, and there was no stopping us.  We put all the shit behind us and decided to just have fun and play the things we wanted to play.  I think we all learned a lot about what we needed to learn during the break, whether it was about business, tone, gear…whatever…  With our revamped skills, gear, and vibes… here we are.

Andy:  Monte called me up basically, asking if I wanted to chill out, jam and have fun.  At first, that’s really what we did; we’d watch TV, drink a couple beers, have some food, and then just jam out.  However, concrete ideas started coming together into songs really quickly, and it was obvious that we had some great new material.  

There’s a lot of ground to cover.  You cats have been busy as hell since getting back together.  First up, I know very little about the The Apostles of Silence.  This was recorded before the breakup with the intention of it being a double album.  It never got the finishing touches.  I’ve started listening to it in preparation for this interview and it’s great!  Very, very Hawkwind sounding…riff-y, psychedelic, the vocal melodies make for some anthems (“A Corpse is a Corpse”).  What was the recording of that album like and why was it aborted midway through?  I’ll be honest, as is, it ain’t no slouch. 

Andy:  What was the recording like?  Well….it was rough to say the least.  Honestly it was a shit show.  I don’t think any of us really knew what we were doing in the studio at that point, and sometimes the studio wasn’t particularly all there either.  There were both personal and technical issues, let’s just leave it at that.  We’re not going to get into the gory details, as it’s a long, long story….

We’d done our first recording basically live in the studio.  Mostly first takes, right to 2 inch tape, with a minimum of overdubs afterwards.  So we were kind of trying to recreate that, though there was a lot more material and it was a lot denser.  There were a lot of factors involved, too many to get into quite honestly, though it was a real learning experience.  Basically, we learned what NOT to do when making a Palace album.  It’s a very flawed recording, there are blatant mistakes on it, sloppy performances, because we were really rushed for time and doing a lot of it live in the studio.  That was one of the big reasons we pulled the plug.  Monte at one point called it a very expensive demo, and that’s pretty accurate.

Monte:  I think that’s where everything that could have gone wrong- did.  The writing and general content of The Apostles of Silence was awesome.  I would definitely re-learn and probably re-work all of those tracks.  We really would have to start from scratch on it, but that would be way worth it.  We can play a million times better than the 1st time around.  Plus, at this point, we aren’t strangers to the studio.

As you stated, this was around the time of the breakup.  We had been through several drummers before landing Netto, and that had sidelined us several times.  We even missed a really good gig or two because of it.  Tensions were high, and so were we.  You can hear the anger in our playing on that stuff.  The idea was good.  The songs were good.  Our attitudes were not so good. I’m pretty sure somewhere on the internet there was a quote about how it sounded like we wanted to kill each other.  I think we probably did.  It was also a matter of budget, time, and unrealistic expectations, given those details.  One thing is certain… if we do that album again, it will be a bit different, but way better.

Adam:  I thought the recording process went well aside.

As stated in the signed open letter by its creators, if the response is great enough it might be finished someday.  Do you think you guys will go back someday to put the finishing touches on it?  Even back then, Palace didn’t seem like a traditional, stoner by numbers band.  To add onto that, what would you consider the “mission” for this band to be from the beginning?  Experimentation/exploration of the heavy and stepping beyond it seems quite accurate…

Monte:  As I stated previously, I’m in if everyone agrees to do it.  It would likely be completely re-recorded.  I cannot at this time confirm or deny that it has been discussed.  We’ll take it as it comes, maybe when we slow down on the writing.  At this rate though, it could be a while.  We have a shit ton of new material in the works.

I think the mission was always to make music we were proud of and would want to listen to. What exactly that was when we started, I’m not entirely sure.  We all shared similar taste in bands, and at the same time, we were on different sides of the planet.  We weren’t 100% on the same page.  Back then it hindered us, but now it helps us to draw from it all.  We couldn’t really do what we had in our heads yet.  I certainly discovered an interest in stuff Andy was listening to years before.  Andy figured out that if he kept feeding me different music, that I come back with all sorts of new ideas.  Yay Andy!  Again, our time apart in different bands gave us time to learn and appreciate what we could make happen.  The mission now?  Really the same thing, but we see with different eyes…we hear with different ears.  Plus, we are all getting older and just want to have fun.  It’s all a lot easier when it’s fun.

Andy:  I would say that after we finish writing and recording the next album, tentatively titled The King of the Empty Aeon, we’ll finish Apostles.  And by finish, I mean completely redo using more of the DIY recording methodology we’ve developed since the restoration.  I’m a lot happier with Stars, Dreams, Seas and In the Afterglow of Unity than I have been with any other recordings I’ve ever done, even the Black Pyramid ones.  I never fully liked those, they were rushed and we missed a lot of details.  I’m very detail oriented….

As far as the band’s mission?  Well, when we started out, it was really to come up with a unique sound that was both heavy and trippy.  That was pretty unique at the time for our area, I mean, obviously we were drawing heavily off Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Clutch, Sleep, The Obsessed, and all that great stuff from the 60’s and 70’s, though no one around here was really doing that.  It was tough for us at first because of that, people didn’t get it and we ended up playing in Boston a lot.  In Western Mass, in our hometowns and such, we’d generally play with punk, hardcore and experimental bands, because the fans were more accepting.  It was tough playing metal shows, because metalcore and nu-metal were the big things.  We’d play our more retro sounding stuff, and people would be like “What is this hippy shit???”  We did a Misfits tribute night, and all the rockers were like, “Man….you guys killed it!!!”  Then we did the same thing with a glam rock tribute night.  We played a Bowie song, a T. Rex tune, and then we totally freaked out on “Virginia Plains” by the Roxie Music.  This dude from a local punk/metal band loved it, thought it was an original, and asked us to play with them.  They had a huge crowd, and then we had an audience.  Playing that scene really helped us grow, it gave us an edge, and we learned to play a crowd rather than just stare at our guitars all introspective-like.  We eventually learned to adapt when we played live, and that was big.

The first tune we worked on, “Sonic Throne”, I basically wanted to write something that was like Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.”  No joke, just listen to all the lead guitar workouts.  That’s what I really wanted.  The second one, “Into the Maelstrom”, I wanted something that was trippy like a good Monster Magnet tune, with some more intense heavy riffing.  We listened to a lot of other stuff, and those other influences always crept in, though that was really the mission, heavy and trippy.  Stepping beyond it came a little later, that took time and experience.  I mean, we always experimented and explored, in the practice space, and live.  It took longer for that to come into its own with the songwriting and recordings. 

Holy shit, “The Knight of Infinite Resignation” is kicking my ass right now.  It has that Spirit Caravan groove with a little Thin Lizzy mayhem, intense drumming that’s way more than a simple backbeat and HUGE hooks.  I can’t say everybody plays like that.  Great song!  How was that one written?  Everybody is playing at the top of their game.  Do you still play any of these songs out live?

Monte:  Thanks!  One of my personal favorites…  We throw that one and “Sonic Throne” into a set every now and then, also “Heir to the King of Everything.”

Most of the time, Andy comes in with lots of parts and ideas and then as a band, we put it together and add the other parts necessary.  It seems to be a very collaborative effort, especially these days.  Other times, I’ve been screwing around with something, and Andy stops what he’s doing and tells me not to forget that.  It gets used somewhere.  We all write stuff as a band.  We all arrange stuff as a band.  We have a good formula now, and we’re sticking to it.

Andy:  You certainly have a good ear for this stuff, yeah, this was inspired by Spirit Caravan, and we were listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy at the time.  I’m listening to Thin Lizzy right now actually….  The album has a lot of long, complicated songs, so we wanted to balance that out. It’s a pretty straightforward song, I had all the riffs written and we just pieced it together.  Monte did the solos; we wanted that rhythm break in the middle with the bass and cowbell.  I wrote more Fu Manchu style riffs there.  There’s not much of a story behind it, honestly, maybe the other guys remember more.  This is one that we do play live to this day. 

Thanks for the compliment on my ear!  Okay one more question about the oldies, “Nantucket Trainwreck.”  Bluesy and rockin’ as hell with growlin’ vocals, fuck yeah.  A veiled tribute to Mr. Leslie West, am I correct?  Yes, please finish these tunes!  You have my vote. 

Monte:  Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s correct.

Andy:  Yup, you got it.  I like Mountain and Leslie West’s playing quite a bit, and I love how heavy they got on Nantucket Sleighride when that big riff kicks in.  I suspect that we’ll finish these tunes; they do deserve it and are begging for it. 

Nantucket Sleighride is without a doubt my favorite Mountain album.  On Stars, Dreams, Seas the band lost none of the riffage but started getting even more psychedelic, more tripped-out in both a 70s (Hawkwind, High Tide) and 90s (Hum, Swervedriver) sort of way.  Gloriously spaced-out, righteously rockin’ and totally its own thing, the songs spoke for themselves.  How were these songs written?  What planted the seed since it was the first glimmer of new material in a long time? 

Andy:  These were some of the first songs we wrote, it was basically Monte and I jamming in the basement of his old house.  He’d play a riff, and we’d mess around with it.  Every once in awhile, he’d play something really cool, like the intro riff to “Beyond the Stars”, and I’d be like, “Whoah whoah whoah, do that again, I can work with that….”   That’s also how “Awakened Dream,” “The Sunfaced Moon” and “Soulstorm” came into existence; they were kind of happy accidents.  “The Distant Shore”, I wrote the main riff at home, Monte came up with all those lead licks, and I actually had the heavy, slow part kicking around from the Black Pyramid days.  I didn’t think that would fly for a Black Pyramid song, so I never used it.

Monte:  Since Palace got back together and started writing, we were in fact, riding a wave of energy- an afterglow perhaps. Just like all the other times, a set of ideas were introduced, and everyone got involved.  It was a band effort.  We knew that since it had been so long since we did anything that we had to put something out so people would know that Palace was active again. We knew those songs would be on the album, but we also knew that they would be very different than the EP versions. 

Two of my favorites that you mentioned are “Awakened Dream” which has sort of this Soundgarden/Dozer vibe run through Swervedriver and “The Distant Shore’s” Cure like, dark gothic rock ambience.  …These tunes have far different vibes than your average point n’ stoner rock bands.  The music is coming from a weirder, wilder yonder.  It’s cool to hear somebody slamming riffs into dust, but bringing “alien” influences into the mix.  These influences could be easy to bungle, but Palace makes it sound slick n’ easy.

Andy:  Good ears again my man, I was listening to a lot of Swervedriver and The Cure when we wrote these songs and made this album, and Monte and I were definitely kicking out some Dozer and Soundgarden when we wrote “Awakened Dream.”  I remember distinctively how much we were both listening to that final Dozer album – it’s pretty epic.  That organ tune at the end of Dozer’s last album really influenced Monte’s guitar parts for “The Sunfaced Moon”, because he loved that Dozer song, and he was using octave pedals to get an organ like sound.  We listened to it all the time at practice.  And the latest Soundgarden album had also come out, so we were definitely listening to that and revisiting the older albums.  Not to mention, Soundgarden was one of my biggest influences when I was first learning to play as a lonely teenage Andy….

That was the idea though, to kind of sandwich some more “alien”, weird and wild material between the two more traditional songs.  After the intro, we went right into “Beyond the Stars”, which is pretty traditional.  Then the idea was like, “Well, that’s the last that you’re gonna hear of that for awhile….”  We continue to move farther and farther away from that, really going in different directions while still concentrating on the flow and cohesion of the album.

Monte:  Did I miss the question?  I love Soundgarden and Dozer. I have a dog named Dozer. Seriously… I do.  I also like the Cure.

That last Dozer record is beyond monstrous…such HUGE sounding tunes on that, so nicely played on bottling that lightning.  There was a definite move away from straightforward classic/stoner rock on Stars, Dreams, Seas.  The feel was darker, the riffs more subdued and the rhythms gorgeously pulsing.  There was no lack of heavy, but it didn’t have the flat-out 70s riffs grooves as say the song “The Apostles of Silence (which I’m listening to right now!).”  Really though…the older material had something “different” about it too, even when it was more direct.  Striving to be different seems like it was important from the very beginning.  What changes do you feel that each of you went through as players from the past to present?

Adam: We all got better from the interim bands we were in, especially with recording.

Andy:  Well, honestly, being into the retro heavy and trippy thing in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was really different for around Western Mass.  And don’t ever get me wrong, that was the original intent.  “Sonic Throne” was the first song we ever wrote, followed by “Into the Maelstrom”.  And while “Into the Maelstrom” has that odd post-punk/Fugazi inspired bridge in the middle, I was personally very invested in being a “stoner rock” band early on.  I’ve always felt “different”, oh don’t get that wrong.  The other influences always broke through, though it was a bit reluctant on my part.  In my mind, there was always this question of “Oh shit, can we do this?  Can we get away with this??  Is this kosher???  Are we going to be judged or considered inauthentic for incorporating these influences????”  That was definitely what changed going into this album; I totally stopped worrying about any of that crap and just embraced my diverse past and random influences.  I actually listened to so much folksy indie stuff while I was writing, and I think that really added a whole other element that’s not readily apparent.

I’ll admit – I had a lot of preconceived ideas of the influences that I wanted to come to the table, and then the forefront.  I was like, “Hey guys, let’s listen to a lot of Failure and Hum.”  That happened.  It’s really interesting because every single band that you mentioned prior, that was one of those Wednesday nights in Monte’s basement listening to tunes.  Even Torche and Mastodon, we listened to a lot of Torche….

Monte:  For me, I learned a lot between the inception of Palace, the time off, and the reunion. Adam, Andy, and I had been in other projects together since 1994?  We had our chemistry.  None of us really knew how to play.  Andy and I used to jam out to Green Day and Pumpkins shit at first.  Ha!  All of us were pretty much self-taught.

Things really started coming together for me when Palace broke up.  I had to step up on vocals because I couldn’t find anyone I liked to do the job in Hydro.  Also, being the only guitar player meant that I had to come up with more to fill the void of the two guitar attack I was used to dealing with.  I had to write riffs around being able to sing, but still sound decent.

I used to think you could buy a good tone with awesome gear, but unless you really know what to do with it, you’re just a kid with a bunch of fancy equipment like a deer in headlights.  I learned a lot about sounds by experimenting with tons of effects pedals and using different pickups.  It was no longer about how loud can this get (although we do have plenty of wattage behind us) but how sweet does it sound.  I immersed myself in music for that time.

Like I said, it was like training camp for future Palace stuff.  I think this is pretty good advice for anyone playing in a band that wants to get to the next level.  Practice, listen to as much different music as you can, learn to use the gear you have, and take care of it.  Never give in and never give up.  If you play at midnight to just the sound guy and the bartender, give it everything you got because it’s good practice for when you get that Friday night gig with a packed house. 

These three tunes were re-recorded and revamped for the brand new, completely awesome album In the Afterglow of Unity.  I LOVE this record.  It’s certainly from another place and time far beyond the one we know.  Very interesting album title which I could see meaning a few different things…  How did you come up with it and what significance does it hold?  It really sums up the album as there is a unity in the way it plays from the first note till the last.  

Andy:  It was a lyric from the song “The Distant Shore” that struck me as particularly fitting for the title of our album.  The most obvious meaning is that, yes, we’re unified as a band again.  We have a unified vision, and there’s a certain flow and unity that we utilized in the writing and recording.  Obviously there are some “mystical” overtones to the phrase, so feel free to interpret that as you see fit based on your chosen belief system.  Some people seem to think it’s about sex….no, it’s not, though I can see where they’re coming from.  I like sex a lot, though quite honestly, I rarely write about it.  Maybe I should start??

Monte:  It has many meanings, and what’s cool is that you can take it to be what fits you.  For me, it’s the afterglow of being able to make music with some long-time, childhood friends, who over time have really turned out to be my musical soul-mates, so to speak.  We have certain chemistry for writing and playing.  I love these guys.  We have a good time making the music we want to play.

The “scene” we know has changed a lot since the Palace’s inception in the late 90s.  From my perspective, I feel you guys are taking the sound in a whole different direction.  The riffs are still there, the rhythms will still bust your back, but there’s a trippier, more textured direction to the sound that a lot of bands aren’t capable of.  What do you think is necessary for longevity, or the sustainment of existence for a hard rock or stoner oriented bands nowadays?  To me it feels like Palace is taking the genre in the direction it needs to go for survival.  

Adam:  Genres and scenes have to change otherwise they will start to get stale.  I embrace this new direction and think it’s going in the right direction.

Andy:  Yeah, that was the idea, to really go for texture and atmosphere on this one.  I wanted to embrace the influence and approach of those heavier shoegaze bands, like Ride and Swervedriver, who really layer things and utilize some pretty trippy effects.  Smashing Pumpkins are another huge one; Siamese Dream was pretty much the template for how I wanted this album to sound sonically.

As far as what is necessary for a band in this genre these days, I think you really have to grow and be willing to work outside of the box.  Expand your influences, listen to everything that you can, don’t be afraid to experiment, and never censor the best parts of yourself.  Play what you want to hear.  Surrender yourself to your art, and let the rest follow.  Don’t worry about the music industry until you absolutely have to, as that can quickly take the focus away from the music itself.  I think that’s where a lot of bands go wrong, and that’s definitely been my personal experience.

Monte:  We write what we want to play. We do what’s fun and inspiring, and if people dig it, then that’s a bonus for us. I think at this point we are all looking to enjoy what we do.  I’d rather enjoy it in my basement with these 3 other guys (who really are family at this point) than hate what I do in front of lots of people.

For people like us that enjoy this type of music, it will never really die.  Just like the 80’s hair bands that will never go away, our scene will always exist. Will it ever go beyond the garage or the local bar?  Maybe it will, but I don’t have any expectations either way. It’s better if I don’t.  I just want to rock and have a good time.  What we do is more of a therapy session. We get our aggressions out, we forget about that shitty week at work.  It’s that time when I feel like my soul is on fire as I float above the earth.  THAT is what we do.  We float above the earth, and if anyone wants to join us, they are welcome in Thunderland. 

Wow, great answer by everybody on that and very true!  I’ll ask specifically about a few of my favorite songs and movements from the record in a bit, but right now I wanted to focus on the recording as a whole.  Andy has hinted to me that there is a definite story behind how the songs came together and the recording phase…  I always have time for a story, if you’re in a telling mood!  

Adam:  We had a plan and followed through with it.

Monte:  Andy pretty much writes all of the lyrics. I gotta say… he’s brilliant with that shit.  I fancy myself as a really good writer, but he comes up with some seriously awesome stuff.  I wouldn’t try to change any of it.  I write stuff all the time, but it’s not necessarily for Palace.  Our formula is working just fine.

I know for sure that each song has a story to tell, and because we are all so close, we would know what they relate to, but the lyrics and the songs are written in such a way that I think anyone could take away an appropriate meaning from them, depending on what is happening in their lives. These songs really do speak for themselves and speak to humanity in general.

As for the recording phase; we wanted to do a very guitar heavy album.  Not just heavy riffs, but just lots of tracks.  So many guitar tracks we had trouble remembering what was what.  We used different guitars, different cabs, different amps, different effects, and different mics.  Basically, everyone brought over their entire arsenal of gear and we pretty much used everything at some point.  We took our time and set no limits on it because we really wanted this album to be killer. We started off trying to keep precise notes as to what gear was used for each song, but that got a bit out of hand.  There was no way to keep track of it all.

Andy:  There are a couple larger stories; it’s basically about a bunch of Zen anarchist techno-alchemists running amok in the not-so-distant dystopian future.  I read a lot of comics, and I really wanted it to be a bit like reading a comic book, though in music form.  Kind of like what Ogre did with Plague of the Planet….

Anyways, it’s kind of semi-biographical, like a fictionalized, romanticized version of what we do every week in that basement.  We kind of use all this big, loud, weird gear to create this sound that’s one part technology, one part humanity, and one part just pure spontaneous magic, and there’s the alchemy.  That’s really how the album came together, I mean, you can see some of the pictures and videos on our Facebook.  We spend months experimenting with different tones and effects, and we capture it all on tape, so to speak.  We were just down in Monte’s basement, the Thunderland Compound as we like to call it, and we were going wild with guitar tracking.  At one point Monte’s wife asked him why we were just making noises for weeks, rather than playing any actual songs.  Well….we were doing both, in a sense.


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There is a flow from track to track that you can hear even if you’re just listening to it digitally.  I hope to pick-up the hardcopy soon so I can play it from front to back on a good stereo.  Connecting the songs seemed to be important and there’s an almost, synth like effect happening in certain sections and even endings of songs, although I know that zero keyboards were used on the record.  How did you achieve these perceived effects, as well as the cohesion that stitches the tunes together?

Monte:  The songs going from one to another was a planned effort.  It’s something that we all agreed was a neat idea.  The album can stand as a group of songs individually, as well as one big piece with several movements.  Having instrumentals and tripped out transitions definitely helped to stitch it all together.

There were a lot of effects pedals used with and without the guitars plugged into them.  I think at this point, we really have mastered our FX pedal thing.  Some of those synth-y sounds were intentional with different combinations of pedals, and some just came out of natural harmonic content and overtones.

Andy:  Well, I had a really good idea of how I wanted the album to flow.  We’d played it live from start to finish for a couple shows before we recorded, we practiced it that way, and we knew exactly what we were doing with the basic, main instruments and tracks.  So we laid the big, crunchy guitars down in a manner that would allow us to overlap a lot of the feedback that starts and ends the songs.  After that, it was just a matter of putting the icing on the cake.  Monte has some cool pedals that he gets synth-like sounds out of, octave pedals, oscillators, flanged reverbs, different echoes and such.  I’ve got a slightly different approach with my pedals, a little more using the slide, picking behind the nut, natural and artificial harmonics, pick slides, some more organic techniques that are then heavily layered with effects.  It was a bit chaotic at first, when we had all the tracks and weirdness in its raw form, though Justin Pizzoferrato did a great job mixing it all into a coherent form, and Mark Miller also really nailed it as far as seamlessly piecing the songs together the way we wanted them to flow.  I sent him extensive notes, and it came together pretty quickly.

“Troglodytes” is a real power-rocker.  It has that anthem quality that Steve Brooks and friends managed in Floor/Torche, but it has a harder, 70s riff-style going and is more rhythmically crunching.  There’s a catchy punk element to it with the “woah oh-ing” and everything else.  Killer stuff dudes!  How was this one written and laid down in the studio?  I can imagine it being a live favorite.  Those drum fills are the definition of “sonic.”  It feels like everyone is playing off of each other at a heightened level.  

Adam:  If I’m remembering correctly, “Troglodytes” was written just before the 2007 breakup.

Monte:  This is one of our favorites to play, and it has been a crowd favorite as well.  We play it live all of the time.  No problem.  It probably sounds even ballsier because of the adrenaline on stage.  It’s actually an older song we were working on at the time Palace broke up.  We tracked it the same as the rest of the songs.  Matt went into the studio at Sonelab with some scratch tracks and did the drum parts.  We spent the next 7 or 8 months in my basement studio tracking all the guitar parts.  Did vocals in Andy’s stairwell at his place, and Adam did the bass at his studio in Boston.  It was mixed by Justin Pizzoferrato and mastered by Mark Miller at Sonelab in Easthampton, Mass.

Andy:  Yeah, Adam is right.  We were playing this live before we broke up.  I wrote the parts during a period where I was listening to a lot of Torche and Floor, though if you listen, there’s a lot of Dinosaur Jr./Swervedriver influence during the more jangly/chime-y guitar section in the middle.  Monte and Netto came up with the “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing”, and that really makes it come together.  Netto did some of the lead vocals on this one too, he wrote the last vocal part, and I backed him up, along with Adam.  Yeah, we did vocals in the stairwell of my old house.  We were going to look for something really cool and ambient to do the vocals in, like an old barn, or a haunted house, or something cool, though in the end, my open stairwell sounded really good.  It was convenient, as the other guys would just stop by and do their parts.  Monte nailed all his backing vocals for the album in a single take.

And I dig that everyone gets involved with the vocals…  There are not enough of those multi-part harmony kinda bands going these days.  Floyd, Beatles, Outlaws, King’s X, hell even Kylesa…  It seems like you were striving to achieve that sort of effect on a lot of these songs and even the lead parts are traded between you guys sometimes as well, right? 

Andy:  Yeah, I mentioned that a little bit above as well.  Going back to Apostles, you’ll notice that on “A Corpse is a Corpse”, Monte is singing leads on the quieter bridge part.  It was an old Skyball song that we never really did much with, and Monte wanted to use it there, and to sing it.  It works really well.  Monte and Netto did a lot of backing vocals on that album, and I believe that the title song, “The Apostles of Silence”, was the first time we did three part harmonies.  We’d end up doing them again when we re-did “Bastard of Puppets” – the three of us sang on the choruses together.

For Afterglow, we did a lot more than that.  Netto had planned on singing the lead part for the ending of “Troglodytes,” though if you listen closely, you’ll notice that we traded off lines during the faster part.  This was because my voice was getting really shot from screaming the higher register stuff.  Netto is a lot better at that than me.  I have a lot of trouble with my voice, touring with Black Pyramid was a constant battle because of that, and my vocals weren’t always great live as a result.  I haven’t struggled near as much since we figured out that it was better to have Netto do that higher register shouting type stuff, as that’s really his thing and it fries my throat.  He ended up doing the lead part during the chorus of “Before the Dawn Descends”, and I sang the lower harmony.  More and more, we’re learning what works for us as a band.

Monte:  I’ve always loved to sing, and I think that everyone in the band can pretty much say that.  Adam is a little shy, but he sings too.  Andy really does most of the lead vocal stuff, although I know that I’m supposed to be doing some more singing in the future.  Matt and I sang a lot, and then sometimes even Adam does the harmony parts for backup vocals. 

One of my favorite passages on the album is the stretch of “Deus Ex Machine” to the hooky as fuck, “Decadent Decay.”  Am I correct in assuming that these almost like couplet of songs within the greater arc?  This trio really goes together and its sequencing (like everything else) feels very purposeful.  The middle piece “Pink Quarter” instantly calls back to the themes heard on the opener instrumental, “The Owl in Daylight.”  Sequencing is a lost art…  Collections of songs are badass, but I do miss the glorious landmarks from the 60s and 70s, the eras of the album, where each tune was placed with intent to create a course of musical travel.  How about relating the sequencing here to some of your favorite albums of those eras for a guide point?  Would you consider this album to have a theme, or musical idea that is returned to in select instances to keep the flow uniform?  

Monte:  We definitely have been doing things in 3s.  It seems to work out that way.  The album is definitely intended to be played front to back, much like multiple movements to a larger piece. Ultimately the tales of each song are part of the story that the album tells.  There are definitely some recurring themes going on throughout, as well as some teasers before hand.

Andy:  Yeah, the songs are largely grouped in threes.  All the sequencing is quite purposeful; we’re obviously quite influenced by the concept albums of the 60’s and 70’s.

“Decadent Decay” would be a bit hit if I owned a radio station.  It would be one of those songs you’d hear more than once in a day.  The big riffs are there, the drumming is pounding but introspective, the bass breathes and the chorus is a show-stealer.  Don’t mistake me for saying “Oh, nice pop song.”  Yeah, there’s a pop structure to it but the instrumentals are still progressive and edgy.  How was this one put together?  It’s one of my favorites.  If pop songs were this good in the here and now, I’d tune into the radio much more often!  

Andy:  Thanks man!  It was meant as a catchier song, for sure.  I wanted it to be all over the place, stylistically.  I really like Adam’s basslines on this song.  They’re subtle and melodic, and they add a lot of texture.    It’s the rhythm section that really allows us to jump around so smoothly and play with the juxtaposing stylistic elements on this song.

Monte:  I love this song.  It’s really fun to play, and the writing is solid.  Most of my friends say this is a favorite.  It was put together like all of the other songs.  Andy came in with some parts and a basic structure…we wrote the missing parts and glued it all together.

It’s no secret that Palace has an affinity for some underappreciated 90s bands.  The 90s really are an underappreciated time for hard rock.  Seattle had much more to offer than 5 or so big bands (who are great too, but there’s a lot of others you shouldn’t miss), Maryland doom/rock was still full force, then there were bands like Hum, Shiner, Swervedriver, Failure, Handsome…  Somehow a lot of this stuff didn’t get the credit from rock fans who still yearned for that 70s level of innovation.  The 90s really didn’t forget about that stuff.  What are some of your favorites from the time period?  Why do you think a lot of that music was totally ignored at the time?  Thankfully, it seems like it’s getting some attention again.  I bought Downward is Heavenward the literal day it came out and if In the Afterglow of Unity was released on that exact date I would have had my listening needs fulfilled for quite a long period of time!  

Monte:  I would say that I’m guilty of paying more attention to those bigger bands you speak of. Pearl Jam Ten was huge for me, as was anything Soundgarden.  Obviously I would tell you that Temple of The Dog was badass too.  Never really got into Nirvana until they did the Unplugged thing.  I didn’t start listening to Swervedriver or Failure until much later, although it was a good discovery for me.

I was still stuck on my 80’s hair metal stuff.  I was more into Motley Crue, Faith No More, Tesla, Cinderella, etc…  I still am.  I even go on those crazy Monsters of Rock Cruises every year.  So yeah, I was THAT guy.  My tastes have certainly broadened at this point though.

The bands that were ignored at the time suffer from the same problem as a lot of other bands.  It was either already being done by someone else or it wasn’t marketable enough.  Perhaps the particular scene was saturated with similar acts.  There could really be a million reasons that they didn’t get the attention that they should have.  I have always said that there are bands out there better than any band we have ever heard, but we will never hear them because the music industry doesn’t give a shit if they can’t make them money.  It’s all a matter of timing and opportunities.

Andy:  Monte, you sell yourself short dude.  You were totally into bands like Nudeswirl, Cell, and TAD in the 90’s.  You dug Therapy? and no one dug that band except me, you, and our friend Blaser.  Sure, we listened to the mainstream stuff back then, though we were listening to The Melvins as well.

Glad to see Therapy? get some love.  I’m a long-time fan of those guys. “Before the Dawn Descends” does a lot with a minimalist template.  The vocal lines are sparse repeating a few phrases as a mantra, the rhythm is all hypnotist stuff and the riff cycles a groove that makes you stay in for the long haul.  Reminds me a bit of the slower side of the 90s like Red House Painters and Low but with much more hard rockin’ grooves…  What was the composition of this one like? 

Andy:  Once again, good ears.  I don’t know Red House Painters, though I had started listening to Low during the writing and recording of this album.  I had the intro and outro riff hanging around, once again it was an idea I’d come up with while playing with Black Pyramid, though I didn’t think it would work with that band.  The main riff, the more intricate melodic one when the distortion first kicks in, I had just had it kicking around in my head.  It was really hypnotic, and I was literally hearing it in my head all day before I finally got home and figured it out on the guitar!  It wasn’t simple to work out on the guitar either, as the phrasing is a bit odd.

From there, the rest kind of fell in place, I came up with a verse and chorus, the bridge, and then we arranged the second half of the song based on variations of that intro motif.  The lyrics came together really quickly, and once again I liked the minimalism and repetition.  I was tempted to write more lyrics, though ultimately went with the old “Second verse, same as the first.”  It felt like the natural thing to do, no need to force things….

Adam:  “Before the Dawn Descends” has my favorite lyrics on the album.

Monte:  Like many of the tunes, Andy had a basic structure and some parts written.  He usually says, “Monte, I need you to figure out some parts to go with x/y/z stuff I came up with.”  Adam and Matt also write their parts, and in most cases, the songs evolve as we go. We come up with lots of changes in our songs, so they never really get boring to play.

Closer, “The Surfaced Moon” does a number on me.  Damn, that’s an emotional song.  Andy was telling me that the subject matter of the song was even deeper than I had suspected.  The song is a grandstand masterpiece, a sprawling jam the likes of which are becoming a precious commodity as the 70s fade further off into the distance.  What was the lyrical inspiration behind the song and how was it arranged in practice and then the studio for the recording?   Those leads and how they transition into a gargantuan riff against the Earthy rhythmic canvas are too good to be true!  How did each member of the band provide their stamp to this piece?

Monte:  We were screwing around with some random parts & jams, and Andy heard me making mysterious synth sounds.  At that point it really started coming together.  Again, as we brought the other guys back into the fold, things evolved.

Andy:  Yeah, this wasn’t really a “song” at first.  We were just screwing around and jamming at first, and I had this kind of Pink Floyd type clean progression.  Monte started doing the organ/synth noises using an octave pedal and some other effects.  It sounded cool, though I really didn’t consider it a song for awhile.   It kind of evolved from there.  I had those heavier ending riffs ready to go, they were actually some of the stuff that I’d written for a third Black Pyramid album, which I had pretty much written by the time we finished BP II and I left the band.  The thing was I didn’t think much of that material was going to work for Black Pyramid, not the way things were going at the time.  It was very different than what we’d done that far, and I think that ultimately it was more suited for Palace, so all is well that ends well.  Anyways, those riffs ended up working great to wrap up this song, and that’s when things really started coming together.  Adam is a big Floyd-head, so he came up with those flowing, melodic baselines pretty quickly, and Netto fit right in with the drums.  The arrangement isn’t really that complicated, though there are a lot of layers.

I used my Les Paul clean through my OR120 with a heavy delay for the main guitar track.  I doubled with a 12 string through this old amp Adam has, and we went with a clean tone with tons of reverb and a smooth tremolo.  Monte used his Green clean, and one track was an octave with some forms of delay and phaser.  The second track was that ElectroHarmonix organ emulator, which was an interesting addition, because he was already doing those kinds of sounds before they developed that pedal!

We added some acoustics and other layers, honestly, I don’t remember all the details anymore.  Monte used a big fuzz with a phaser during my solo part, and his acoustic is echoing the organ part in the background.

We went with the Hawkwind/freakout ending; it seemed a really great way to end the album.  We pulled out all the stops, so I really have no idea what we did exactly for that ending.  We wanted to end with a bit of chaos, to kind of juxtapose the really calculated instrumental intro “The Owl in Daylight.”

As far as the lyrics, yeah, it’s heavy material.  I really wrote it about all the people we’ve lost in the heavy rock/stoner/doom community in the last few years.  I’m sure you knew some of the people I’m talking about here. A lot of them were young guys, my age, people who I had varying degrees of rapport with.  It really got me to thinking about life, death, mortality and loss, so the way I processed some of those feelings was to write about it.  In a lot of ways, all of my lyrics are “autobiographical” in a certain light, just mixed with various degrees of metaphor and allegory.

That slide guitar solo was done with someone specific in mind, who was really into slide and pedal steel.  He died kind of suddenly, just when a lot of people in the community thought that his health had taken a turn for the better.  It was really painful, and I tried to channel some of that grief into that solo. 

Who writes the lyrics?  Is it a collective effort or sole?  I’m just curious because I really get some power from the words.  They really fit with what’s happening on an instrumental level.  

Monte:  I repeat…Andy pretty much writes all of the lyrics. I gotta say…he’s brilliant with that shit.  I fancy myself as a really good writer, but he comes up with some seriously awesome stuff. I wouldn’t try to change any of it.  I write stuff all the time, but it’s not necessarily for Palace. Our formula is working just fine.

Andy:  Guilty as charged, I write the lyrics.  Netto wrote a couple of the lines that he sings, and actually made a few suggestions to me as well.  For instance, he wrote the line from “Troglodytes,” “Leave your soul on the side of the road.”  I just out of the blue asked him for a line, and he fired that right back at me.  It works.  I don’t know, perhaps it will become more collaborative. We’ve been going more in that direction as we progress, especially in terms of arrangements and composition.  I ask the other guys more and more what they think of ideas and for their input on arrangements.  I’ve honestly been a little stuck with lyrics for some of the new songs, so perhaps I’ll ask for more input.  All of us know how to write songs.

I think the one obstacle for that has been what you’ve just described a bit. I generally write the verses and chorus riffs and chords for a very specific reason: I know what is going to work for how I sing.  That’s probably why the lyrics fit with what’s happening musically so well.  Generally I write the music for a verse or chorus, and just sing stream of consciousness until I come up with a couple of phrases and ideas that kind of stick.  They have to really resonate with me, and with the music and the emotions I’m experiencing as I play the parts.  Then I write the rest of the lyrics around those “sticky” ideas…

Honestly, I really don’t know where the songs are coming from at times.  Because I start them out stream of consciousness style, they often come from deep parts of my psyche, my subconscious.  A lot of time, I don’t even know what they mean at first, and then later on, after I listen back to them, and it’s almost like I was trying to tell myself something.  I know that sounds strange.  It is really strange…. 

Finally, who did drew up the artwork we saw on the hardcopy?  I like that Andy is holding the copies in the one photo like a dealer’s deck!  Ha ha.  I definitely want to procure one soon.  How many were made and was the layout/creating done all in house?

Monte:  Andy and Adam know this one. I forget, but it’s badass!

Adam:  Ralph Walters did the cover art. I’ve seen him work on his art in person, seen a few of his paintings and he also did the Blue AsideMoles of a Dying Race and Space Mushroom FuzzMan in the Shadow covers.  He’s definitely an incredible artist!

Andy:  Ralph really came through for us.  He did all the design and layout, and he did it really quickly based on some rough, vague, and complicated ideas that I threw at him.  He’s incredibly talented and a great guy to work with.

What is happening on the live front for the record?  I know you guys have done some shows including the CD release party.  The video footage I’ve seen is killer.  I’m leaving the house on a scarce basis these days, but I’d come out for this if I got the chance.  Will you be doing any touring in support of the record or mostly local stuff?  How do you feel the live performances expand upon what was recorded?  There seems like a lot of space for someone to run wild if they want to.  Netto’s drumming consistently blows me away!  Without giving too much away do you take any jam opportunities while playing live?

Andy:  Well, I’m not sure how much touring we can do, or even how much we’d want to do.  I’m okay to do long weekend type things or even slightly longer tours if they’re lucrative.  It’s tough, we work, we have families, we’re not 25 year olds with no responsibilities anymore.  When we were, we didn’t have our shit together enough to even make albums like this!  Locally, it’s also tough because we don’t want to be out playing the same venues every weekend.

As far as how the live performances compare to the recording, they’re bit more stripped down and mean.  We rely more on raw power, less on texture and atmosphere.  Those elements are obviously still there, it’s not like we leave the pedal boards at home or anything.  Monte tends to really run wild live with “Deus Ex Machina”, and I lay back until I dawn a Darth Vader mask at the end.

As far as jamming, the older stuff is a bit more conducive to that.  “Sonic Throne” can get really jammed out, sometimes we all take solos.  It’s a good one to end longer sets.  We tweak some of the arrangements of those older songs based on what we want to do that night.  We actually have a pretty good back catalog, so we can really cater our sets to what we want to do for that given show.

I think that we’ll be writing some “jammier” stuff in the future, without giving too much away, of course….

Monte:  We definitely plan on doing more shows now that the CD is out.  Our philosophy has always been (since the reunion) that we would do fewer shows, but better ones.  We don’t want to over saturate our exposure in certain areas, and we still need some more momentum in other places.  We are thinking quality, not quantity.  I’m assuming at some point we will have to do a few little mini-tours. What exactly those will be are still undetermined at this point, but we do actively discuss these things.

Jamming out is a fun luxury when we get to do it, but it’s only been done at the shows where we have excessive time for a set.  Sometimes we throw in old instrumental jams off of the Apostles of Silence, like “Phantasmagoric Armageddon part II.”  Most of the new things we write actually have some pretty specific parts and timing.  Lots of things we do are never an exact re-creation each time.  There are parts that are recurring though. 

Andy’s already told me about at least one new song in the pipeline.  I’m excited for what’s next.  You can get your bottom dollar on that.  Can you reveal any secrets about what’s next?  Will another full-length album be in the future?

Monte:  We are really about 5 songs-ish into a new full length at this point.  The album might even have a tentative name.  We have talked about EP’s and Splits, etc…  Maybe a vinyl release if we get the right situation.  We are constantly discussing all options; keeping in mind that things (just like our songs) can possibly evolve and take other forms. For all we know, we’ll be writing a musical for Broadway.  I doubt that, but that’s how open we are to changing things as needed.  It’s really all about that timing and opportunity.

Andy:  The working title is The King of the Empty Aeon.  Yes, we’ve got four songs written, one instrumental mapped out, and some rough parts for a sixth song.  So we’re well into the next album at this point.  I’m not sure if 2016 is realistic, though I’d say that we’ll definitely have it done for 2017.  We’re bringing a lot of different influences to the fold, even more than on Afterglow.  It’s going to sound much different, and it’s still going to sound like Palace.  That’s what we do….

We’re also planning on doing a split 12” in 2016, details forthcoming.  We’re still in talks about the Broadway musical. 

What other projects will we see back in action?  Is Palace the central focus or is there still time for Blue Aside and Space Mushroom Fuzz to get around.  I know Andy’s been getting down acoustic.  Fill me on in what other musical madness is happening in the off hours.  

Monte:  I can’t speak for everyone else, but Palace is the main focus for me at this point.  I’m sure you will see Blue Aside and Space Mushroom Fuzz continue with new music as there is time and opportunity.  I can’t say I could predict any other happenings, but who knows what may come.

Andy:  I’m working on a solo album.  I’ve been working on it for years.  It’s really different, really indie/folk/psych/shoegaze.  I’m really having trouble coming up with the tones that I’d like to use.  I’m extremely detail oriented, and it’s just been difficult figuring out exactly how I want it all to sound.  It’s all very new to me, in a sense.  I know how to do the thick, heavy, fuzzy tones.  It’s a little tougher for me to shift gears and engineer the tones that I’d like for mellower material.  I’d like to also do another garage/psych band at some point.  I love that kind of stuff, and it’s so fun to play!

Adam:  Blue Aside recorded its third album The White Staff Burned by the Blue Sun around the same time as In the Afterglow of Unity and it is being released in late September on Hydro-Phonic records.  Space Mushroom Fuzz is always working on a new release although that project might be ending late October and being replaced by something new. 

Thanks so much to all of you for doing this interview with me.  I’m a fan of everything you guys do and I’m very happy to have Palace back in action.  If there is anything I forgot or didn’t ask during this interview, please feel free to include it here.  In the meantime, I’ll be anxiously awaiting what shape the new music will take on.  Over and out!

Andy:  Dude, thanks for taking the time to interview a small town band like us!  The pleasure is all ours!!  I would like to take a minute to publicly apologize to all the Black Pyramid fans who may have been confused, concerned, or upset around my own behavior and/or what was happening with the band around the time of my departure.  I personally was just not in a very good headspace.  There were some outside factors profoundly clouding my judgments and influencing my decisions, and I was really struggling with some really big decisions around what to do with the rest of my life.  That doesn’t excuse any of my behavior, nor justify it, though I wanted to put that out there in an authentic way.  Clay and I are on great terms at this point, so I’m really happy that we were able to leave the three ring circus behind us, and move forward with what we each want to do with our lives….

Monte:  HydroElectric is what I (Monte) was up to when Palace broke up initially, and I ended that in order to focus on Palace when we reunited.  We put out an album, which featured guest appearances by both J.Mascis and Murph of Dino Jr. Fame.  You can find more info about this on http://www.hydroelectricmusic.com/

 

http://palaceinthunderland.bandcamp.com/

http://www.facebook.com/PalaceInThunderland

 

Comments

  1. Commented by: StevhanTI

    Listening the album now, so so so glad to have these cats back in top form. I found out about Palace, via the old stonerrock.com forum just before the initial break up and managed to salvage a rough mp3 copy of Apostles from their website before it was all sucked into the void. To my ears the best unofficially released album ever. Listened to it for years, even when Black Pyramid was kicking around that old, rough Palace stuff wasn’t forgotten. Never got so much into Blue Aside, but Pyramid Yeah. I actually met Andy when they were at Roadburn in Holland so I was surprised and even a bit hurt when that shitstorm came along. Anyway it all turned out for the best and now we have both bands releasing good new stuff. Now if only a Euro-tour could be engineered for Palace…


  2. Commented by: Andy Beresky

    Yeah, sorry man, that was a confusing time in my life and I know everything that went down upset a lot of people. I’m not perfect and have made a lot of mistakes in my life – luckily I’ve learned a lot from them. One thing that I learned is that this band is what I truly like doing. It has turned out for the best. We’d love to tour Europe, though that’s a very rare opportunity for American bands, it’s very competitive to get over there!


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