Friday, December 14, 2012

Yowie Interview

Yowie recently released Damning with Faint Praise, and after being asked to write up a review of the album, I asked them if they would be willing to do a short interview.  They were nice enough to agree.

yowie interviewHello and thanks for doing this interview, why don’t you introduce yourself.

I'm Chris.  I'm the new guy.  I joined a little over a year ago.

Hey I am Shawn. I'm the old guy. I joined like 13 years ago.

What about the Yowie made you decide to name your band after it?
Well, the fact that it exists, of course, is important. Also, it is hirsute and mysterious, like me.

One of you turned down a position at Yale to stay with Yowie.  Did you make the right decision?
That was me- it was a Postdoctoral Residency. I definitely made the right decision. A Yale Postdoc is a pretty damned good career move in my profession, but I couldn't do Yowie and it at the same time. I have always had two lives, and neither one of them has ever fully ruled me or stamped the other out. This is partly through design and hard work, and partly just blind luck. Thus far, I have somehow found a way to find some way to make the two co-exist, even if uneasily. At the moment that I received that offer, I very much believed that this band had something cool up its sleeve that had yet to come to fruition. We had just reunited, and some of the songs from 'Damning with Faint Praise' were really starting to take form, and I just couldn't go off to the East Coast and let that wither on the vine. The songs had to be finished. 

For some context that you didn't ask for, it seemed like we had accomplished something with Cryptooology back in 2005, and were at that time offered a European Tour, which turned out to be my life's dream that I never knew i had until it was offered to me. But then the band lineup collapsed, and said dream evaporated. So when that offer for Yale came in a few years later, I could have chosen to let those new songs and the European tour slip through my fingers and go just pursue my career, or I could have tried to find another path for my professional life in the hopes that Yowie would complete what it had started, which was a real gamble, given that we had already broken up once. So a few weeks back, while we drank vending machine beer on a balcony in Italy, I announced to the world, much more loudly than appropriate for the hour, that I was so very glad i risked it. 100% the right decision; no regrets. The album turned out great, and I hope lots of people get to hear it. And to make the ending even happier, I later ended up lucking into a great job that, for me, was better than the Yale Postdoc anyway. Maybe not the prestigious "brand name" of Yale, but very meaningful work. I have never been too excited about brand names and reputation anyway. 

The year is coming to an end and I am still in the process of putting together my top 50 of 2012.  What are the top 2012 albums in your opinion?

I really liked the Zs box set, and Normal Love' s 'Survival Tracks'.  Loincloth's 'Iron Balls of Steel' is amazing.  Also, Mary Halvorson's 'Bending Bridges' - she's awesome.

I would definitely say Normal Love's "Survival Tracks" is fantastic, and i was blown away by them live. And Behold...the Arctopus' "Horrorscencion" just came out, which has some amazingly technical and craftily composed pieces on it. But when it comes to time frames for music, I may be the wrong person to ask. I am rarely aware of the decade something I ran across came out. I regularly pick up music from long ago and don't pay that much attention to its age. I just like what I like.

What bands inspired/currently inspire Yowie?

Yowie's music is very much a product of many hours of hard work in relative isolation, so we're not directly influenced by other current bands all that much.  There are bands i find inspiring because of their fearlessness & devotion to doing their own thing, though - Cheer-Accident. for instance.

Slayer. Pretty much just Slayer. 

You finally got to play a European tour.  How did Europe treat you?

Europe was fantastic.  I've toured a fair amount in the US with previous bands, and bands get treated SO much better overseas.  I loved it over there.

Europe spoiled playing in the US for me. I didn't know that was possible, but holy crap, it was like an alternate universe. Club owners who treat you like family, and thank you for coming, try to make you comfortable. Promoters pay you what you are guaranteed, no matter what the turnout is, and even extra when they had a good night. Home cooked meals! Really. Places to stay already arranged before you get there. Free drinks. Friendly, positive people. Autographs. People who have listened to  your music for years who want to talk to you about it, and hug you, and thank you for making it. Women dancing to our music. Seriously. So, yeah, not at all like most of our shows in the US, and all along I didn't even know what i was missing. The Czech Republic and Italy were especially fantastic; so much fun. Such wonderful people. Some of my favorite people I have ever met in my life. I'd say overall, touring Europe feels like your best friends have invited you to come play at their place. Playing in the US all too often feels like you are adversaries with the club owner, promoter, in a sort of business deal where the bottom line is everything and you each want to get whatever you can out of the other. I have had a hard time not becoming an ex-pat.

A lot of bands seem to be going the kickstarter route lately, how was your experience using kickstarter to get to Europe?  

I was a little hesitant to do the kickstarter thing...i come from the DIY, pay-your-own-way world, and i felt some twinges of creepiness asking people for money.  I was shocked & humbled by those people's generosity, though.  It turned out to be great experience. 

Oh yeah, it was fantastic. It was very touching how many people contributed.

You got to be on the same bill as a lot of great bands when in Europe.  What were your favorite bands you heard while you were there?

Staer was awesome.  Korekyojinn was great.  i really liked a band from the Czech republic that we played with a few times called EA.

Yeah, agree 100% with the above, but would add Poino, Birdbath, and Etai Keshiki. Korekyojinn was a special treat, since they have never toured before and have never come to the US. I've enjoyed their music a long time and may never get to see them live again. So that was amazing.  

How could i have forgotten Poino?!?!? They are a great band.  I also really enjoyed School Bus Driver.

What was the weirdest show that Yowie has played? 

Well let's see...we played the local Riverfront Times Music Festival last  year. We played in a weird sort of meat market bar, set up in a booth where it looks like Scarface should have been sitting with his entourage. They had a UFC fight on the big screen right above us (why turn that off?) and had booty shaking music pumped in from the other room, which was separated by a curtain (also, why turn that off?). The whole venue made no sense for us. But then people somehow liked it. And I was told repeatedly that our music really makes sense while watching two men beat the hell out of each other.

What was the sound you were hoping for when you went into writing this album?  Now that it is completed, did you capture that sound?

I think we mostly did. I was basically traumatized by the sound quality of Cryptooology, which we recorded before we were signed for just a couple hundred bucks. It was recorded by a brain damaged functionally deaf person with terrible equipment, who does not understand what sounds are, much less how to capture them. The drums sound thin and tinny, and the guitars have no low end, and the entire album's sound is shrill and abrasive (as though that is what we need for our style of music) and basically sounds nothing like us live. So for this album, we did lots of things to correct for that. I purchased some extra large, very boomy drums, Jeremiah got an amp with a 12 and a 15 in it, and tuned his guitar lower, and we recorded to 2 inch tape with engineers who are not only able to feed and dress themselves independently, but also are actually quite good at being engineers. So I would say we captured most of what we wanted. I am still not 100% happy with the drum sound (I think I may have overcorrected with the boomy drums; you can't hear a fair amount of my fast tom work, for instance, because it turns into a hum), and the guitars still overpower each other from time to time more than I would like, but it is exponentially closer to what we actually sound like than Cryptooology was. So "mostly" is my less loquacious answer.

I read somewhere that you had the album mastered 8 different times.  Why was this and how different are the various versions?  Do you have any copies of the other masters and do you plan on ever releasing them online?

I think there were seven mastering passes. The differences aren't great enough to warrant a separate release.  We basically were just trying to get it to sound the best we could.

Yeah, it was just seven mastering passes. Don't be ridiculous. why would anyone do 8? That would be overkill. The band overkill. with the skull with wings on it. Scary. But yes, I totally agree, the various mastering versions are no more noteworthy than the dozens of mix rough drafts. I think if I had another $10000, I would have kept mixing that album for another few months. If i wasn't murdered first. But I would love to hear a remixed/remastered Cryptooology one day, if that is salvageable.

When writing Damning, what song took the most time and which part of the album is the hardest part to play?

"Magnetospheric Eternally Collapsing Object" wins the "Longest Time to Write" award. Back in 2008, that song was 12 minutes long, and that was without the beginning and end parts, both of which have a little bit of repetition in them. It was ridiculous. Or maybe even ridonculous. No, definitely, it was ridonculous. It had dozens and dozens more parts and movements in it, which made it have the effect of losing some of "the rock," as I believe it is commonly called. I know that our music is generally too much for the average attention span to absorb, but this was just absurd, and clunky. So, interestingly, it took years of nipping and tucking, and especially arranging, without very much new composition, to get it to the streamlined, aerodynamic beauty it is today. To the second part of your question, I bet each member has his own hardest song. For me, it is "Magnetospheric Eternally Collapsing Object."
I think "Whippersnapper" is the hardest song for me to play...there are a lot of subtle timing/phrasing things in that one that are tough to nail.

Now that your tour is over, what is next for Yowie?

Writing new music is priority one.  We already have one new song that's mostly finished (we played it on our European tour).

Definitely. Doing very little other than writing new music. Lots of time back in the basement. Still reminiscing about our European Tour and trying to get back there as soon as possible.

Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview.  Anything else you would like to add?


I appreciate your taking this time. So far this album hasn't gotten too much press at all, good or bad, and I'd really like more people to be aware of its existence.

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