If you want your metal raw look no further than Chicago’s Bones. Answers by Jon. Anders Ekdahl ©2011
No disrespect to New York’s or Seattle’s metal scenes but the Chicago metal scene has always been full of great metal acts. Do you have any explanation to this?
-None. I mean, this is the only city I’ve lived in my entire life. I don’t know what it’s like to be in another city’s metal scene. From my formative years as a grade school punk, there was always an undercurrent of metal and the underground. Someone older always had the new juice on a killer new band or release or label or zine or something. We would meet each other at local shows and compare notes while in the back of someone’s van (sometimes mine) smoking weed and getting fucked up before a show. There’s always been a sense of community here. But, don’t get me wrong. There has also always been a sense of competition here too. You show me a Chicago band, and I’ll show you 3-5 guys who think they are in the best band in this city. That’s just how it’s always been. Especially in the 90s. Christ, it was brutal! So maybe that’s the answer. Everyone here always strives to be the best in this city. Most of us get along with each other, and we might even help each other out from time to time, but make no mistake; whether we admit it or not, each band thinks that they are the best. We are constantly trying to outdo each other. Maybe the cities that have these friendly “support the scene” type of bands are too soft to produce a steady stream of angry, metal, motherfuckers.
What were your intentions when forming Bones and have these intentions turned out better or worse than you hoped?
-Well, for me the intentions of forming Bones was to be in a band where everyone is equal. After slugging it out in Usurper for 13 years, Kommandant for 3-4 years, and playing live and touring in another local band for 2 years I was getting pretty tired of playing someone else’s riffs and following along like a good little soldier. I was trying to contribute new music for these bands, and it just sounded out of place. After playing with Joe Warlord in Usurper, I knew that he was the one guy who understood what it was about. And it was the same with Carcass Chris. He’s the best guitar player in this town. We decided early on that we never wanted to be more than a 3 piece. 1 guitar, drum, and bass provides the key, raw ingredients to great songs and playing. The best bands have always had only 1 guitar player: Voivod, Venom, Van Halen, Celtic Frost, Motorhead (for the most part), The Ramones, The Who, The Stooges, Sodom, etc, etc. And this is the lineup to pull that off with. We’re a band and a team down to our core. I think we were all a little uncertain of how things would unfold from the beginning. But I think they have turned out better than we had anticipated.
The first time I heard your album I almost dismissed it as boring death’n’roll, to which I’m pretty much allergic. But the further in I got the more hooked I got. What kind of responses have you had on the album?
-I dunno. It’s pretty early to tell. Live, the response has been pretty killer. Some of the people I respect have told us it’s pretty kick ass. And to be fair, some of the people I respect just think it’s only so-so. We’ve been getting some good reviews, but I don’t like going by that. It seems that after the first 5 reviews of a new release, the reviewer Googles the band’s other reviews and bases that for their own review. Kind of like 5 bands that all sound the same. It’s frustrating to read the same review over and over again, and I’m not sure that the average metal fan bothers to read reviews of bands they aren’t familiar with. Or maybe it’s just me that doesn’t do that. I dunno. But to be honest, other people’s opinions don’t matter to us at all. If everyone hated it, and we had no label or anything, we would still be holed up in our rehearsal room sweating it out 2 nights a week and recording shit just to listen to it ourselves.
For some reason I get a TANK/NWOBHM feeling when I listen to your metal, as well as a Hellhammer/Celtic Frost feeling. What are the main influences for Bones?
-Just playing shit that is interesting to us is what influences us the most. We’re older. “Seasoned”, we like to say. But we’ve been listening to music for so many years/decades that we just have a natural feel for what things should sound like. If I’m the one writing a particular song, Chris’s guitar tone or Joe’s drumming style will influence the riff. I’ll try to write to that. We’re all into different kinds of metal, and Rock & Roll. We’re at a point that we’re not trying to prove anything. We’re not the fastest, heaviest, doomiest, goriest or whatever. Congratulations, you’re the goriest! We just let whatever we like work its way into the mix whether it’s: , punk, good ol’ fashioned Rock & Roll, whatever.
Looking at the cover brought back memories of buying that first Bolt Thrower album “In Battle There Is No Law” back in the 80s. Was there a deliberate point in having a BW cover as opposed to a really colourful one?
-I think the point was to have a simple and to the point cover. But we didn’t get super involved in the details of the artwork. We’re “musicians”, not artists. XNA Casperson is a friend of mine. She’s a local artist who does great work. I always thought she got a raw deal because of the fact that she’s a woman in the “man’s world” of metal. She did our logo, and we thought it was incredible. We offered her the cover if she was interested. She said that she would like to collaborate with Matt Putrid, another killer local artist. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that having 2 great talents working on your side and collaborating creatively can only produce some killer results! We had them over to our rehearsal room, got them drunk and stoned, gave them a cd with some tracks on it, scribbled down a few lyrics so they would get the vibe, and had them go for it. There was very little direction from our end of it. What they came up with is exactly what we wanted. But, it’s interesting you brought up the old Silent Scream version of IBTINL. That’s a killer cover! Never made the connection, it’s in the same vibe.
Do you think it helps in building a reputation that you have history in other Chicago bands or are the times we live in so fickle that you have to build a reputation from scratch with each new band because people forget about your previous ones?
-Well, people are fickle. Most people don’t give a shit about your past. “What have you done for me lately?”, and all that shit. And usually, the people that do remember your past remember it because they had a problem with it! But whatever. In a perfect world, we’d like to be judged on our present. Fuck our past. We made a point not to shop for a large label, not to try to parlay our past experience into a marketing strategy. We didn’t want a sticker on the front of the cd that said, “featuring former members of: blah, blah, blah..”. We all came from somewhere. It’s in our past. It’s our individual history. Nothing can change it, and we’re not ashamed of anything. But right now, this is Bones. This is who we are. This is happening NOW.
Is there a point to having stage names in 2011?
-Sure. The point is having a slight barrier between the fantasy and the reality of music and the band. Metal is pretty much all fantasyland from where I sit. If you want reality head over to cnn.com. We’ve had these names forever, and we just keep using them.
When entering the studio to record the album, did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to accomplish or did that fall into place later?
-A better way to put it would be that we had a crystal clear vision of what we DIDN’T want. We didn’t want a record that sounded “studio” and “produced”. The music of Bones is very simple. It’s angry and very direct. There’s nothing complicated going on here. This is not “math metal” or “thinking man’s metal”. What the fuck is all that shit even about?!? This is about 3 guys who had too much to drink and are sweating all over their instruments, bashing it out. We didn’t want effects, or 4 guitar tracks, doubling vocal parts, compression, and studio trickery. We wanted it to sound like it sounds at our practice room when it’s 100 degrees and we’ve got about a case of beer in us. Dangerous, like what is completely missing in most current “metal” releases nowadays. When was metal supposed to sound safe, polished and slick?!? That’s boring and lame. We recorded the music live and then added the vocals. The whole recording process took 3 days. We mixed it in one day and that was it. We had more days booked in the studio, but we didn’t need them so we didn’t use them.
Your record label Planet Metal was a new acquaintance to. How did you get in touch with them?
-Planet Metal is run by Chris Black. We’ve known him forever. He’s been in a ton of bands over the years: Superchrist, Dawnbringer, High Spirits and he does the lion’s share of the songwriting for Nachtmystium. Kind of like what Daniel Rey did for the Ramones. One of his old bands used to practice in the room next to the one that Usurper used to play in around ‘99/’00. Chris is an honest, and respectable guy who happens to run a killer underground label. Once we had a bunch of songs together we needed to decide what to do with them. Should we record a 4 song demo and shop it around to bigger labels like Century Media, Earache, etc? Or, should we work closely with a smaller label? For us it was a natural decision. Like I said earlier, we have nothing to prove, and nothing to lose. We’d rather work with someone we respect, who is local, and also a musician who knows what it’s like hammer it out. Label douchebags sitting in an office have no idea what being in a band is like. Chris does. We met a few times to figure out what each one expected from the other and then we decided it would be good to work together. There is no big label budget, but there is no big label bullshit either. I’d rather pay for my own album and not owe anyone shit than put up with the big company runaround.
Has having a record label backing you a big an importance today with all the different electronical ways of communication/distribution, as it did back in the 80s/90s?
-It definitely isn’t. Back in the old days, it was really important to have good distribution. A larger underground label would have access to good distribution, like Relativity in the US or whatever, so your record would be available in the now antiquated “record store”. Now, there is something called the “internet”, where every motherfucker out there thinks that they are owed their record collection for free. Even if someone wants to pay for a new album they can go to iTunes and pay for it there. There isn’t as much emphasise on physically getting your album from the manufacturer to the shelves of a chain record store. And if metalheads still feel the need to hold an actual product in their hand, and they’re in an area that doesn’t have any die hard, underground record stores in it (there are still a few) they can order from the label or an underground internet distro directly and have it shipped right to their door. This was another factor we considered when we decided to approach Planet Metal, as opposed to approaching the bigger labels.
Once your album is out where do you take it from there?
-In between local shows we’ve been rehearsing and writing like hell for the next album. I think we’ll in the studio right around new year’s. The new stuff is shaping up quite well. More pissed off, basic, heavy…music for the motherfuckers.