CANYON OF THE SKULL

Doom metal is not just bands playing old Black Sabbath inspired riffs. It is so much more. Like CANYON OF THE SKULL Anders Ekdahl ©2017

A band sets the tone for the band. With the right name you don’t really need any sort of declaration of intent. Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you?
Erik Ogershok- Choosing a name for this band was a very difficult task. I wanted to have a name that would convey what the band was about, without giving the whole thing away. Since we are instrumental and have no lyrics to convey message, the name was especially important. Our name is a variation on the location where the Chiricahua Apache finally surrendered to General Miles. I am Apache so this event is of particular importance to me. That said, I didn’t want the band name, or music for that matter, to scream only that fact. People should be able to listen to our music and decide on face value if they like it. If they want to know more, they can dig into it. I’m not interesting in browbeating everyone with message, but there is a message if you seek it.

Who would say are the founding stones of the kind of sound you have? Who are your house Gods and how have they coloured your music?
EO- I am all over the map on this topic, but if you are doom band, or a metal band of any sort really, Black Sabbath is part of your DNA. In my mind, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Celtic Frost, and early Rainbow are at the core of our sound although many others have shaped it stylistically. Rush, Yes, Loop, Mogwai, and Lungfish are among them. I listen to a ton of orchestral music and soundtracks and those definitely play their part in shaping our sound, particularly requiem masses. I would be remiss if I did not mention the role that black metal plays in this band. While I would never consider us a black metal band, it’s influence, especially with aesthetics, is significant. These elements all exhibit their influence from the length of our compositions, the style of arrangement, the sound of the guitars, just to name a few. If we are talking strictly about the guitar, my influences are more streamlined. Uli Jon Roth, Richie Blackmore, and Tony Iommi, each in their own way, have had the biggest influence on me as a player and continue to do so to this day.
Adrian Voorhies- Our foundation derives from a wide variety of music, as Erik mentioned. The root timbre of doom metal works particularly well as our compositional base although that is, in itself, a multi-headed beast. Our individual style as players contributes to this as well. My personal idols include Billy Cobham, Vinnie Colaiuta and Tony Williams so there is an air of jazz oriented rhythm present as well. It’s continually evolving!

When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
EO- The simple answer to this is yes. You have to fight the urge to shorten stuff just for the sake of brevity. Melodies and grooves take longer to develop so you have to be patient. Sections tend to be longer so you have to think differently about how you transition between parts. Personally, I think it is more difficult to play slowly although many would argue the opposite. The need for technical proficiency might not be as high, but the need for precision is paramount. Since there is so much space in any given doom phrase, every note really counts and if you muff one note, it stands out and that really sucks whether live or in the studio. It irks me when I hear people say that doom is for lazy players. Go listen to some Candlemass or My Dying Bride and then tell me that.
AV- Tempo is, as with all doom music, a big factor in our work. mostly because it lives at either end of an extreme degree. The same goes for the length of our standard phrases. Erik brings up a good point regarding precision. Also, with so much space, there are a lot more areas to color. Unlike something at a quicker tempo, your chosen notes stick around much longer than usual, thus reinforcing the idea to a maximum degree. It’s definitely important to take advantage of that, which you don’t have to do so much in other styles of playing.

Playing live is a totally different beast to studio work. How does your music work in a live environment?
EO- We are forced to look at both differently since we are a two piece. The lack of other instrumentation means the bass and other guitar parts are not there. Instead of focusing on what is missing, we try to add to the immediacy that our music already provides. The energy of our live show provides a visceral component to the cerebral elements of our music.
AV- It’s a much rawer and extroverted experience. While some components go unheard, the level of tension created is palpable. There is an air of improvisation as well and since the songs retain the same amount of bars at the same tempo it’s extremely gratifying to let loose or venture out a little bit within that framework. Space really affords that and it’s liberating to be able to approach the music with that mindset of readiness and intrigue in a live situation.

How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? Are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans?
EO- It is entirely possible for a band to release a record today, but I think that being with a label will benefit every band assuming you don’t sign a terrible contract. I like releasing our own records, but it would be great to have a partner in the endeavor for many reasons. Labels put out records. It is what they do. They have everything in place to do the job more efficiently and effectively than I can do it. It would be great to remain focused on writing records and rehearsing instead of finding the best place to press CD’s. I think access to music is great for bands and fans alike. That said, it can be quite daunting to wade through the volume of stuff that is out there. I have a stack of stuff that I want to catch up on, but I’d rather have that than the opposite. I like the idea that there is always some new band out there for me to discover and I’m sure I’m not alone in that thought.
AV- I think it’s interesting you asked that because, in my mind, that sort of relationship between artist and label has truly fallen unto itself with the onset of modern technology and the age we currently live in. Artists can, indeed, very easily put their own stuff “out there” with as many platforms as do exist nowadays, whether that’s on an independent level that’s just getting a foothold or maybe one much more popular and dominant in the market. So it’s not like the need to generate and release is so coveted anymore by the artist, but more of the distributional side of things. Non-wretched accounting procedures, a really solid in house booking system, things like that are very attractive. It’s sort of like living on an island for most of your life and finally being presented a boat, only there’s no motor! Well, you can start drifting as best you can, but it’s unsure. An onset of new product is a wonderful thing- having more individuals pick up the art form is a wonderful thing. So generally I think it’s good, but the saturation does start to show. I hear a lot of young players that have an extremely competent grasp of their instrument, a great vocabulary with which to work and many support systems but they still don’t really have a whole lot to actually say.
I get the feeling that fans that are true to a band, is a lost thing with the easy access to music these days. Do you feel that this is a bad thing or are there any positive aspects of it at all?
EO- I don’t know if I agree with that first statement. I think we are fortunate in metal to have very loyal fans. Especially fans of extreme metal and its various subgenres. It is my experience, as a musician and fan, that if you like a particular metal band, you’re a lifer. You have the shirt, the vinyl and maybe even the CD if you really like something. Or maybe that’s just me. I think we touched on this a bit earlier, but I think think that fans having access to music and bands having avenues for exposure only benefits both sides. It is my opinion that people that are apathetic about music would be apathetic if music easily accessed or not. A site like bandcamp is great because it can be an all in one experience for fans and bands alike. For bands it is sometimes their only way to market. For fans, they can stream, purchase, and sometimes get free stuff. Everyone wins.

What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
EO- Damn that’s a tough question. There have been so many great album covers. I’ll go with Aosoth’s Arrow in Heart. I saw that cover and I thought “I can’t wait to hear that”. I think a good cover sets the tone for an album much like the name does. There isn’t one thing that it has to have. You just want people to take notice and build a level of anticipation for what’s inside.
AV- A great front cover is a visual idea that you, as composer, enjoy. That’s it. I don’t think a great cover has to relate to the type of music it’s covering, or any ideas therein. I believe it could be completely far removed and still retain a significant commentary, whether implied or not. Absu’s recent album covers have attracted me in this way. Going back, there’s something about Bill Evans “Moonbeams” that always attracted me as a child but I was never sure why they choose the cover they did.

Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? What is the climate for metal in your country?
EO- I feel that we are slowly but surely becoming a part of the national scene and this record will help with that. We don’t tour much due to the demands of my career so that has slowed progress, but I’m not complaining. I’m pleased where we are today. The US scene is a work in progress. We have some great metal bands, but I don’t think the scene is as good as it is in Europe. Especially when you talk about doom. Doom metal is still under appreciated in this country.
AV- Having traveled a fair bit for metal, I can say that the US and European scenes are very different. Both have their own attractions and downsides. I do think that the majority of tastemakers are in Europe and that they listen slightly differently than over here. That being said, Texas is one of the better markets for this type of music in the country and we have the bands, the regional scenes and the diehards to prove it.

I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
EO- Once again, I think we are fortunate because metal fans are different and they are always going to want a hard copy of something. Look at the comeback the cassette is making and vinyl pressing plants have a queue to get a record pressed. My biggest worry is that I’ll never get our records pressed on vinyl due to the nature of both formats. I’m hoping to have a label partner help with that.
AV- There’s a Zappa quote relating the end of the world, and how it won’t be by fire or ice, but sheer nostalgia. We won’t be able to take one step forward without being instantly remorseful for the last, and then the wheel stops. This is definitely relevant in music. However, metal, as with jazz, continues to evolve, adapt, survive and still retain most of it’s integrity along the sometimes ugly journey. It’s important to look forward and take the first step, as artists, into the foray of new consumer mediums. But that doesn’t mean we have to lick the boot of companies like Spotify either. Value should always be asserted, and ultimately when it comes down to it, it is best to buy directly from the artist.

What lies in the future?
EO- Our new record, The Desert Winter, comes out on August 19 and we’re super proud of it. We’re doing a series of release shows here in Texas in late August, but that is as far ahead as we have planned. I’m almost finished writing the next record and I’ve started the one after that. I’m hoping we find a label to help put those out, but in the meantime we’ll keep writing and playing regionally.

https://canyonoftheskull.bandcamp.com/album/the-desert-winter

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