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11 October 2010

Interview: Bloody Knives.

Bloody Knives is Preston Maddox and Jake McCown (both of whom were founding members of the psychedelic/shoegaze act The Joy Bus), and the band is based in Austin, Texas. Built on a foundation of psychedelia, punk, metal, shoegaze, and electronica, their music is a rollercoaster ride of amazing soundscapes and various neuroses not meant for the faint of heart. After hearing and being blown away by Bloody Knives' first full length release, Burn It All Down, a few months ago (read Amber's review of that album here), When The Sun Hits simply had to interview the band and find out exactly how these guys kick so much ass. Preston Maddox was happy to comply, so do enjoy learning a bit more about the band, their gear preferences, their many influences, and much more. The band also has a split release with Me You Us Them due out this November, and you can read Amber's review of that here. Keep your eyes on Bloody Knives. These guys are straight up impressive. And did I mention that they kick ass? Because they do. Burn It All Down is one of the top releases of the year, better recognize. Enjoy the interview!

1. How did you come up with the name "Bloody Knives", and when was the band formed?

I came up with the name driving to work one morning. When I told some people and got a negative reaction from them, I knew it was the right name. Even Jake didn't like it for a while. I wanted to have a harsh name, I wanted most people to hear the name and not like it. Bands spend so much time trying to find a "cool" acceptable name, we wanted to do the opposite of that.

The name reflects our love of horror and sci-fi movies. And the stabbing deaths in the neighborhoods we have lived in. The constant potential for random violence. Watching lots of Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th as a kid.

The band got started in August 2009, and our first show was that Halloween.

2. I know that you both were founding members of Joy Bus. Are you both still active in that band, and if so, how do you divide your time between both bands?

Joy Bus was done when Josh left, which was after our last tour the spring of 2009. That band was based on our guitar interplay over Jake's drumming, and Josh wrote half the music, there was no way to replace that. So we figured out a way to continue on.

Joy Bus was a huge amount of work, we practiced and played all the time, put out four records and three EPs in 3 years, toured twice, and burned ourselves out. We were just done. Everything was a struggle and it eventually wore us down. The good times for that band were really fun, especially our first tour.

3. Can you tell us what you've been recently working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc)?

The next release we have coming out will be the split 7" vinyl with Me You Us Them. We have wanted to do this for years, so we are very excited about it. Its high quality packaging, hand screen printed covers on high quality paper with 45 gram vinyl. All the audio and song lengths have been speced out at audiophile standards.

We are over halfway finished recording our next full length. Ryan Steele is recording it, he worked on the Joy Bus Sleeping With Ghosts record. I'm going to NYC this November to finish recording the vocals and re-sample some things. We wrote all the drum and bass parts in a rehearsal room called Sweatshop in Brooklyn on one of the days we had a break on tour. We jammed for a few hours, then took the jams to Austin and cut it up in the studio and turned them into songs. It's more groove oriented than the last record, more live sounding as well. I've also been heavily influenced over the past year by 8 bit and glitch artists, the influence shows in the melodies. There are also no guitars on this record, other than the bass, of course. It will probably be released during the spring.

We plan to tour the southeast and midwest again, one of the two of those with Me You Us Them. Europe is the next place we want to go, I think we would go over really well there.

4. What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps/synths you prefer?

My bass is probably the most essential instrument I own. Its a Peavey Cirrus bass, it has a long scale neck and fancy active pickups which make the low end come out fat and the high end sounds cut through. I don't play too much guitar for this band, but when I do its a cheap 12 string electric and a Fender Les Paul copy with active pickups. I record a lot of things DI, and the active pickups come through well in this setup. I prefer Peavey bass amps, and a Fender Twin for guitar. I use a Big Muff for the bass distortion.

If I had to pick a pedal it would be my Roland Space Echo, its the best delay peday I've ever owned. I wish my Memory Man still worked, thats the 2nd best delay I've ever owned. I love Electro Harmonix pedals, all analog, awesome sounds. Both pedals sound great and are musical instruments in themselves.

All of my keyboards are really crappy and old. I mainly use a Yamaha kids keyboard I bought in high school, and a EMU Proteus from 89 or 91, its the same model the Vangelis used to record "Chariots of Fire". All of the sounds from Burn It All Down came from those keyboards. I wish I had a good keyboard, but I don't know, it may not sound right!

I'm attracted to obsolete gear, and the concept of dead technology, with so many people's failed dreams invested in the equipment, making the perfect sounds from a forgotten music genre, so era-specific in its tonality that it becomes rendered useless. When the original owner first buys the gear, they think that its going to be the key, the secret to their eventual success, but eventually its just makes its way to some dark corner of their house and then the pawn shop. A lot of the fun with this band is taking a "bad" sound and making it work, I enjoy the challenge. I have a lot of old 80's rack gear and other things nobody else wants.

5. While there are definite shoegaze undertones to your sound, do you consider what you do to be "shoegaze"?

I think of us more as a punk band in the traditional sense of what a punk band is; the kind of band that incorporated elements of all kinds of music into their style, and tried to do something different and original. I don't really know what kind of band we are. People tend to view us through the lens of their own taste. Shoegaze people think of us as mainly a shoegaze band, metal heads think of us as a metal band, which is good for us.
I've always thought of shoegaze bands as punk bands, especially MBV and the JAMC. I thought of bands like Chapterhouse or Slowdive as Ambient Rock. I don't think of these bands as being in the same shoegaze genre.

I think the label shoegaze in the 2000's is like the label of alternative in the 90's. It gets slapped on just about any band that holds true to a few of the basic characteristics. The Cure, The Lemonheads, and Candlebox were all alternative bands. Not much in common with one another, but still under the same label.

Neither of us listened to a lot of shoegaze music growing up, so the sound is accidental in many ways. I had never heard of Ride or Swervedriver until we were compared to them. Our personal attitudes fall more along the lines of the shoegaze types. I think this reflects in much of what we do. I think its more our artistic mindset than anything else that puts us in the genre.
We get called quite a few different things, but shoegaze is always one of them. Which is cool with me. MBV was a huge influence on me, completely changed the way I viewed songwriting and music in general, I'm glad it shows.

It's also good to have a reference point for people to latch onto. We are a different sounding band that's hard to classify and its easier for people to figure us out if they have a starting point.

6. What artists/musicians have most influences your work?

The bands we have played with have a huge influence on us. We are naturally competitive, we don't want to look bad in comparison, and we are motivated to catch someones energy and go with it, or set them up to play great. That's why it is so fun to play with good bands, it brings out some of the best performances. I think that a lot of what we are as a band comes from all the metal and punk shows we played as kids.

The list of influential artists could go on forever, I really have a wide range of tastes in music, so here is the short list:

My favorite books are the Miles Davis autobiography and You Get So Alone at Times it Just Makes Sense by Charles Bukowski.

Visual Art: Basquiat, Edward Hopper, Salvador Dali, Gerhard Richter.

Music: My Bloody Valentine, Daft Punk, Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, The Police, Bruce Hornsby, Pink Floyd, Curve, UGK, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Triple Six Mafia, Van Halen, Nintendo music, The Cure, D'Angelo, The Smashing Pumpkins, Hum, Lightning Bolt, Rush, Aphex Twin, Bruce Springsteen, Fretblanket, Doosu, Slow Roosevelt.

Favorite Music as a young kid: Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, 40's Big Band, The J. Geils Band, Led Zeppelin, The Cars, Hall and Oates.

As a bass player, I would have to include Cliff Burton. I don't like Metallica all that much, but Cliff Burton was incredible. Its funny to think that one of the most copied bass players in metal was a hippy in bell bottoms.

My singing influences are almost exclusively female. Bilinda Butcher, Toni Halliday, Christie McVie are the big three.

7. The new album explores rather dark themes, and the soundscapes that you create to go along with those are perfectly matched. Where do you draw the inspiration for these elements?

The dark side of the world has been my environment, I have always been attracted to it, and it comes out to find me. We have played in some places that encourage some degenerate behaviour, and seen some rough people. These kind of people often feel the need to tell me their story, they are drawn to me, for whatever reason. Probably because I feel a strong sense of empathy for them, and I see their good side, if they have one.

There have also been some rough family issues, suicide, drug problems, friends dying from drugs, fights, being robbed, cheating girlfriends, cheated out of money. All these experiences add up, we have plenty to draw from.

I worked fixing foreclosures over the past few years and have seen some bizarre situations. One house had a wall torn out where the coked up husband tried to get to his wife who was hiding in the bathroom. Another had blood shot all over the wall from a syringe. There was another with blood on the wall from a stabbing. There was one house where the water had been turned off, and the lady had been cleaning herself with KFC wet-naps. There were needles everywhere and a CPR handbook, just in case she OD'd and her young daughter would have to save her.

Also, the sounds of the construction environment made their way into my subconscious. Machine noise sounds very melodic to me, I can hear rhythm and melody in a motor humming, I can hear this translated into the music. In college I used to listen to the yard crews work in the morning, seven leaf blowers going at once was music to my ears.

The lyrical content is observational, we are describing things and trying to put the listener in place where they can be taken out of their element into a darker, more realistic place. We don't advocate violence, or negativity, but I see the world filled with both, and people have made a collective decision to ignore it and concentrate on the positive. There is a passive violence in being willfully ignorant.

Too many people think that they are the smart one that will figure out how to cheat death, that they are above their own instincts. That they are without a dark side. This causes their dark side to swallow them.

8. What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop artists? Any favourites?

I'm starting to hear a new wave of lame nu-gaze bands that are in a competition to write the record that sounds the most like Loveless. Its like they set up a Shoegaze Hot Topic; you can get your starter kit, complete with 2 delay pedals, reverb pedals, a dirty band t-shirt, and a pair of sunglasses.

I do think its cool that shoegaze bands have gotten so much attention. It has allowed our band much more exposure and understanding than we had before the kind of music we were playing was popular. Its helps for people to have a reference point. I still can't believe Loveless became a hip record, I got made fun of for listening to that record. Now here are the same kind of people talking about how cool it is. Strange world.

My current short-list of shoegaze bands I would recommend are as follows (I apologize ahead of time for missing somebody who should be included):

Me You Us Them, Screen Vinyl Image, SPC ECO, Glifted, Ceremony, The Rosen Association, A Place to Bury Strangers, Ringo Deathstarr, pinkshinyultrablast, Crash City Saints, The Black Hole Lovers, Black Nite Crash, A Jet Pack Operation, Between the Cities are Stars, All the Saints, Was She A Vampire, Suicide Party, Brief Candles, Panda Riot, 800beloved, Soundpool, Rescue Mission, I Am a Nation, The Lost Rivers, Vanity Press, Stellarium.

9. Tell us a little about what you are currently into (bands, books, film, art, etc)?
I have not read a book in a long time, I mainly dig around for legitimate news on the internet. I lost my love for fiction writing a long time ago, I started to feel like I was being tricked into believing a separate moral agenda instead of reading a story. I don't like people feeding me their ideas, I would rather have them presented to me with the option to think and interpret for myself.

I'm really interested in science, astronomy and social commentary. Statistical data is interesting to me. I'm a nerd, I make no effort to hide it.
I watch lots of movies, usually horror, foreign, sci-fi and comedy. Recent favorites include Inception, Devil, The Last House on the Left (1972), Louis CK stand-up, Ron White stand-up.

And lots of South Park. Cartman is my favorite cartoon character of all time.
Current CDs in the van include:
Me You Us Them, Screen Vinyl Image, Powerlifter, We Are Hex, Infinity Rider, Groove Armada, Best of Motown, Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits, Burnt Ones, The Dead Weather, A Place to Bury Strangers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

10. What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

"Be Excellent to Each Other."