The band's origins date back to 2009. At the time of inception it was only meant to be a side project outlet for the dark earthing black metal inspirations I was feeling from listening to bands like Velvet Cacoon, Korouva and Leviathan, among others. No one else I knew even liked that kinds of stuff so initially it was designed as a one man entity in a self made magic ritual mind space.
Recording dates would only happen on certain moon phases (which is still the case). After 2 hand made self released demos I decided to seek out other members for the possibility of enhancing and magnifying my energies. Several failed attempts with half hearted players had me reconsidering ever taking this project into a full band entity but, eventually the forces of the universe aligned and the first full hearted incarnation of Jonah Butler (drums), William Breeden (vocals) and Jason Hevener (bass) was born on August 13, 2011.
This manifestation of collaborative energy was an inevitable departure from the murky "brown metal" experiment of my one man demo era into something more akin to Appalachian psychedelic doom. The band recorded our first official full length, Ghost of the River Valley in 2012 and played a number of regional shows. Eventually the group amicably parted ways with Jason Hevener and added Matthew Beahm in December 2013. Some would say Matt was the missing link, because the energies between the four of us have been intensified and magnified extensively ever since.
I know it’s hard to classify one’s own music but what fans/ genre do you think you appeal to most? And what would you call your style?
That's certainly a tough one. The band seems to be in a constant state of progression, like pretty much everything on a cosmic level. Since the rise of the live entity we have identified mostly with doom, stoner and sludge bands and were labeled "Appalachian Psychedelic Doom" for a spell. But as we progress as a band, that tag seems to be a bit unfitting. All those things are still present but lately we've added a bit more of a Jazz element.
What are everyone’s influences musically?
Musical taste in this band runs all over the spectrum. Seriously, there is no stone left unturned. Life as well as music should have no limits. Lately the band has been digging on everything from Jazz, death metal, prog rock, experimental noise, classic country, gangsta rap, classical, blues and shoe-gaze. We don't give a fuck. There is good music to be found in EVERY genre. Sometimes you just have to look harder for the gems. Shit floats, gold sinks so you've got to dig a little deeper for the good stuff, which is why modern radio is 98% crap.
If I had known the band would go from a one man entity to the full fledged group it has become, I might have chosen a different name. But that's the way it worked out so we stuck with it. The details of the name itself are a little fuzzy due to it's origins dating back to my heavy psychedelic drug use phase. From my recollection I was tripping balls by a fire when this giant hellgrammite rose up out of the flames, leaned up against a fence and said "what's going on man man man man". I thought that was some funny shit back then.
What are your official releases, including demo’s etc ?
There are two demos of the original one man version in existence, somewhere. A self titled release (2009) and Divinorium (2010). Both were hand made and included a unique art package. In 2012 we released our official full length Ghost of the River Valley on Lost Apparitions Records. There's been a plethora of live material and newer demos floating around via bandcamp. We've recently finished recording our upcoming full length, "Hypnagogia", which will be coming out on Lost Apparitions Records in early 2016.
If I were to (actually I will) link 1 song for people to experience Helgamite for the first time what should it be and why? And does it capture the true essence of the band?
For someone experiencing the band for the first time, as it exists in this stage, I would say check out The Secret from our upcoming album. That song pretty much includes just about everything we do. It's light as a feather and heavy as an anvil. Doomy heavy and slow, to fast manic blasting and every shade in between. That song is an epic journey. However, if that song is not yet available at the time of this being published, a second runner up would be our latest recording of Cavernous Heart which is currently available digitally and should be coming out on 7" at some point.
Get ready to take a trip, this music is a vehicle for the mind. We don't see as much moshing at our shows as we do open mouths and closed eyes. It's kind of a cerebral experience. Spiritual even.
What has been the most memorable gig you guys have played and why was it memorable?
That's really hard to say because all of them have been special and memorable in some way or another. I've never taken for granted the opportunity to perform our art live. Whether we're playing for a packed house in a large upscale venue or for a hand full of drunks in a shit hole bar, if someone in the audience is connecting with the music then it's a success for me.
What idol or influence (dead or alive) would you most like to share the stage with?
For some reason I keep having these dreams where I'm jamming with the band Demilich. I'm sure if that came true I would have no clue what to do, ha.
But I've always wondered who are those mysterious persons responsible for the music of Velvet Cacoon, and what would happen if we got together and took mind altering substances in a cave by the seashore and collaborated on something.
What is your guitar tuning and has it changes since the creation of the band?
Right now half of the live set is tuned to standard and the other half in drop A. That requires a little switcheroo live. I've also used ADGGBE and drop D in the past.
What gear are you guys using and any tips for us out there?
We take gear pretty seriously. My main axes are a '80 Gibson Les Paul (for the drop tuning) and a '78 Gibson SG (for standard tuning). I've recently acquired a Orange Rockerverb TH 100 head and run it through a Peavy JSX 4/12 cab and it sounds sick. I also implore a swath of effects units.
Our singer William uses effects alongside his voice to maximum effect. He runs his voice through a Boss vocal processor and uses several Kaos touch pads. This really adds a whole new dimension to the music.
Our bassist matt, who's probably the biggest gear head of the group, has this to say: As far as gear goes I use two basses; a Rickenbacker 4003 Jetglo and an all black Fender Jazz Deluxe 5 string bass. On the recordings I've played on I used the Rickenbacker for all the standard E tuned songs including the newest version of Cavernous Heart and I used the Fender 5 string for the other songs tuned down to A. Right now I'm using Ernie Ball Cobalt strings; they have a very bright punchy tone to them but also this bit of brittle harshness that I like. Recently switched over to an Ampeg SVT Classic and using assorted cabs; Hartke, Mesa Boogie, Eden. We use a lot of effects in this band and there are a lot on the board but the main effect that get's credit for being most important for me is the Malekko Diabolik fuzz. It's a pedal clone by Ministry's former bassist Paul Barker to replicate the discontinued Maestro Brassmaster fuzz he used during his days in that band. It's capable of stoner doom sounds, tight nasal like synth fuzz, to industrial fuzz that will give you an earache. A couple other effects used during the recording that give the bass a distinctive difference are the Morley Cliff Burton tribute wah and the Tech 21 bass chorus. You can hear the Cliff Burton Wah on the tracks Aestrosion and The Secret. I used the Tech 21 chorus on Snowdrifter to give the bass a frozen glossy texture.
I write the bulk of the material on my own and make demos for the guys to get a feel and see if they like the ideas or not. Sometimes William and I will get together one on one to workshop the vocals over the riffs. Once we have a skeleton established, we jam it at practice and see what happens. Everyone in the group adds their unique creative mark on it which really fleshes things out.
As for how long it takes, once an idea starts flowing up from the mental spring, not long. The best ones kind of write themselves as far as the music goes. William takes a little while to fine tune the lyrics because they're always thought provoking and real.
Tell us what we can expect on the new Helgamite release that will be coming out soon? How does it differ from your previous releases?
I can't help but be ecstatic about the new Helgamite release. It's an amalgamation of all our creative energies and input. It starts out with an acoustic number, which happens to be our most mosh friendly oddly enough. Kind of a planet crusher called Æstrosion. It goes gargantuan doom with swampy sax parts lurking in the smoke on Portal. It gets winter bound like a blizzard overtaking everything in it's path of frozen night on Snowdrifter. It grinds, thrashes and trips out on Origins. Some folks will be thrown for a loop with our take with what I call "DoomJazz" on Shaman's Veil. And our epic end piece The Secret pretty much contains everything that makes this band sound like it does. Kitchen sink and all.
Do you think the music scene is stale, boring or exciting and original compared to say 10 years ago? 20 years ago?
20 years ago in my neck of the woods, unless you played country or were a cover band, a music scene didn't exist. Things have changed most drastically in my area over the last 15 years for sure. Any scene starts with people, ideas and bands. I think music scenes generally come in waves. It's tough being in a working band, many won't make it for the long haul due to life's endless list of sidetracks (jobs, school, family, ect). So there's a new crop of musicians and groups forming all the time which makes it impossible to be stagnant per say. But I think the scene that we're involved in today is quite exciting because with the inter-connectivity of the internet people are more open minded to a multitude of genres and ideas that are happening at a quicker rate.
I would also like to add that Stan Hensh of Lost Apparitions Records has contributed immensely to the local metal scene in my regional area by providing an outlet for bands to release their music. Although the physical record store and live venue no longer exist, the record label itself has grown tremendously and continues to be a strong supporter of our scene.
What was the biggest disappointment as far as follow up albums for one of your favorite bands? And why?
It really pains me to say it, but I was a slight bit disappointed in the new Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls, even though I will admit it's probably they're best album in a long time. I think the band, although STILL in top form, just don't sound as hungry as they once did. Bruce Dickenson did a great job on the vocals considering he had two tumors removed from his throat, but maybe if he had taken a little more recovery time before hitting the studio some of those high notes might not have been as strained. Having said that though, I still love Maiden and it's safe to say that will never change.
Give me your top 10 metal records and your top 10 non-metal records and give me a short/brief explanation of why on each one.
1. Demilich - Nespethe: Killer grooves, superb musicianship, guitar licks like stretchy rubber bands, weird timings and the most ungodly gutteral vocals ever recorded. This album has an otherworldly feeling that's never been replicated since.
2. Velvet Cacoon - Northsuite: Ethereal snowbound hypnotic blackened drug trip. This album comes on like a winter ice storm and works its way into your psyche until your soul is frostbitten.
3. Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast: This is when I knew I was a metal head for LIFE. Wailing guitars, operatic vocals and tight as nails rhythm section. I've always loved Maiden's historical subject matter as well. It doesn't hurt that they've had some of the best album cover art in the history of metal. You could say I loved Maiden before I ever even heard a note.
4. Black Sabbath - Master of Reality: It's hard to pick just one Sabbath album but it's a toss up between Master, Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath for me. These guys are pretty much responsible for the genetic offshoot in the evolution of rock music that to me represents the origins of "heavy metal".
5. Possessed - Seven Churches: This album really kills it with intensity. Blazing solos, unholy vocals, manic drumming. Hard to believe Larry LaLonde did a 180 and is more of a textured background player in Primus nowadays.
6. Bathory - Hammerheart: When times are tough put this album on. You'll slash, burn and pillage your way through life's problems like a true viking warrior! I love the early black metal Bathory albums but this one is just so epic and realized.
7. Electric Wizard - Dopethrone: One of the heaviest albums I've ever heard. Crushingly heavy tombstone riffs. Shrouded in smoke from the monolithic bong of gargantuan DOOM!
8. AC/DC - High Voltage: One of my first introductions to the world of metal. I guess by today's standards this might be considered more hard rock but back in the day there was something dangerous and naughty about it that my teenage self couldn't resist.
9. Voivod - Dimension Hatross: Space thrash made by aliens operating in another dimension. This album fucks me up with its awesomeness.
10. Autopsy - Mental Funeral: Crusty, putrid, disgusting filth like a half decomposed corpse rising up from the grave. I really dig the slowed down tempos that drive the nails right in the coffin.
Top 10 non-metal albums, in no particular order and subject to change...
1. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy: Like the Beach Boys drowning in liquid LSD, this album is like a pop nugget buried under swaths of intense feedback and distortion.
2. The Beatles - Abby Road: The Beatles were my first love and it would be almost impossible to narrow it down to one album but this one seems to contain just about everything that makes the band so great. Deep rockin grooves, colorful imagery, psychedelic flair and beautiful harmonies.
3. Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues: Like tiny geometric shapes pouring out of the stereo speakers this album has amazing texture. David Byrne is a genius with his storytelling and lyrical flow.
4. The Velvet Underground and Nico : Probably the first punk band to ever exist, The Velvets pushed the notion that almost anyone could empower themselves to pick up an instrument and create art. Although on the surface this album seems serene and pop, it contains an underlying layer of darkness, sado sex and drug addiction. Good stuff, right?
5. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew: This album blew my mind like Miles blows the trumpet. One of the first albums to spearhead the jazz fusion movement, Bitches Brew takes elements of psychedelic rock and jazzes it all up into a collage of swirling beauty.
6. Charles Mingus - Ah Um: This is a good album for those who are new or feel locked out of the jazz world. It's catchy melodies and swift swinging rhythms are instantaneous and infectious.
7. Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country: I'm a sucker for sugar coated, melancholy sad female vocals with lush arrangements. The glass may be half empty but the last sip never tasted so sweet.
8. Julee Cruise - Floating Into the Night: Hauntingly ethereal female vocals floating through the darkness. A beacon of light that draws you near before you realize you're standing in the abyss.
9. The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street: Hard rockin, hard livin, dirty, sweaty, lustful, boozy, blues based rock n roll.
10. Pink Floyd - The Wall: This album takes the hashish haze from Dark Side of the Moon and mixes it up with a fair amount of paranoia, social angst, self loathing and claustrophobia. Yet still makes a killer come down record.
Plug anything here/ say anything here and best way for people to find you and discover Helgamite.
Thank you Paul for this interview and helping expose the world to the music of Helgamite. I'd like to thank everyone who's ever purchased our music or come to one of our shows and sharing your precious time and existence with us.
You can check out our web site www.helgamite.com for updates and links to our bandcamp page as well as other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.