Our third ‘How I got into playing’ post where we as part of our ‘Learn the Orange Way’ campaign, offer free guitar lessons for all Orange users (more on that here), and share a series of quotes from some of our artists on why how they got into playing.
I first started playing when I was about 3 or 4, and I’ve been playing professionally since I was about 11. I was really inspired by guitar players such as Clapton, Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn from a young age, another early discovery was The Allman Brothers Band, as well as The Marshall Tucker Band and a bunch of other great Southern bands. Later on, I got really intrigued by “the frontman”, and artists such as James Brown, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin – anyone who had that certain attitude would really speak to me. What really changed the game for me was when I started studying jazz theory, and discovering Miles Davis and John Coltrane was really life changing to me, a clear game changer.
I heard Led Zeppelin when I was four years old, thanks to my aunt, not that she was aware of it at the time. My grandfather was a jazz guitarist way back when, so while I liked that there was a guitar player in the house, I wanted to play heavy rock from the start. Grew up listening to Zep, Queen, Aerosmith, Kiss. Started learning guitar at age 9 but didn’t take it seriously until I saw Ritchie Blackmore on MTV smashing his guitar, and seeing videos of Jimi Hendrix lighting his Strat on fire. Both of those moments made me think “I have to play guitar for life!”
I grew up surrounded by music and the people playing it, my grandmother played and my dad played the saxophone. It was something I just naturally gravitated towards from a very young age, and it didn’t go away. I think you either have it in you or you dont, and for me it was just something I stuck with.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/DSC01029-II.jpg10801920Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Orange-Pics-logo-307px.pngElla Stormark2020-04-02 08:00:212020-03-19 14:54:01“How I got into playing” PT. III
Stoked you’re down to chat from afar while both being quarantined away. Your band Haggard Cat just released ‘Common Sense Holiday’, congrats! It’s a killer record, what can you tell us about it? Matt: Why thank you! We’re both very proud of it! It’s certainly was the most intense writing and recording process we’ve ever entered into. I think from the very first track that we wrote (First Words) we knew that we were potentially looking at something very special, so we set out to make over very own Dark Side of the Moon. I think it’s my favourite album that I personally have ever been a part of. The song writing feels more evolved and mature.
We never want to relax into being the type of band that releases the same record twice, as I’m really not interested in releasing an album where a listener will already know exactly what they’re getting before even hearing a note. Some bands do this very well, but I think it makes the whole scene quite a lethargic place to be. So I never want us to stop moving, I want to take in as many different types of music from different places and allow it all to become absorbed into what we do!
In particular, now that I’m able to stand back and look at the album more critically, I’m very proud of the work I did lyrically, I think each of the songs has it’s own thing to say. I actually isolated myself to write the bulk of the lyrics (which seems quite ironic now given “the event”). I was away for a few weeks in Christchurch, New Zealand – so I set myself the task of cutting myself off the world and really honing in on what I was writing. I went a little stir crazy, but I think it really gave me a unique perspective on what I was writing about.
To sort of recap a bit, how did Haggard Cat come about in the first place? Matt: Haggard Cat has been mine and Tom’s passion project for almost 10 years. It has basically always been our method of writing songs, and practicing material to get it up to scratch no matter what project we were working on at the time; just the two of us going into a room and playing loud. So it only made sense for us to embark on making this our full-time project. It’s definitely the most honest form of us making music together – it’s what comes out naturally. We’ve been playing under the name Haggard Cat since the middle of 2017 when Jamie Lenman took a punt and decided to get us to support him on tour, since then we’ve pretty much been coerced into becoming a real band. Long before any of this ever happened we used to stand a bottle of Bourbon on a wooden stool (named Chris who still comes with us to every show to this day) and we wouldn’t finish the show until the bottle was empty. Hazy, hazy days.
Have you always been into music? Matt: A friend of mine at school’s parents bought him an electric guitar. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever, so basically I copied and begged my parents to get me one too. From that point on I did nothing but play guitar. I’d play in between lessons and at break times I would stay indoors and play some more, I would play non-stop after school and I even got our music teacher to write me a note excusing me from PE lessons to practice. I just loved it, and since then making music is all I’ve really had a true interest in doing.
As a guitar and drum two piece, what would you say you find the most challenging? Matt: This could sound a little pretentious, but the hardest thing is staying as far away from the 2-piece band stereotype that seems to precede any duo’s reputation. There’s definitely a pre-conceived notion that there’s only so much you can achieve between two of you and I think it’s a lazy idea. That was our main mission statement on CSH, to sound as far away from the typical “rock and roll” duo people have come to expect. We treated the production almost like a hip-hop album, and wanted to have a revolving door of collaborators and musicians that would come along and add their own flavours. And then as soon as it came to playing something live it would be an all together re-imagined different beast, kind of like Dylan would do in the 70s, or more recently what the Raconteurs do to their songs live.
On that note, what do you look for in an amp, and what’s your current set up? Matt: I put an unholy amount of bludgeoning low frequencies through my amp, so what’s always been important for me is having something that can tackle those with ease and spit them out with some balls, grit and above all clarity (with the added bonus of being able to do it at ear-splitting volume). My current set up relies on my trusty Orange Thunderverb 200 as its backbone, along with a 1973 Fender Bassman 135 for extra rumble. I also use an Orange Rocker 30 blended in there for a bit of extra sparkly grit, and on the album I use a vintage Roland Jazz Chorus for some spacey wobble. I run all of it through a bunch of tough as a brick-shit-house Orange Cabs loaded with V30s (as is tradition).
What’s your best quarantine activity? Matt: Listening to records and drinking whisky. Yes, I’m a cliche.
Haggard Cat’s heading out on tour in September, after having to cancel their original spring tour due to Covid-19. Full touring schedule below, something to look forward to hey?!
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Matt-Reynolds-Haggard-Cat-by-Carla-Mundy-.jpg10011500Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Orange-Pics-logo-307px.pngElla Stormark2020-04-01 08:00:002020-03-30 18:31:34Interview: Matt Reynolds of Haggard Cat
Our second ‘How I got into playing’ post where we as part of our ‘Learn the Orange Way’ campaign, offer free guitar lessons for all Orange users (more on that here), and share a series of quotes from some of our artists on why how they got into playing.
I picked up the guitar when I was 14, and I think my dad’s very much to thank for that. He wasn’t a musician himself, but he was very interested in music, and it was something that was a part of my life from a very young age; him playing various country and classic rock records around the house. I first started playing acoustic, but it only lasted for about a year as I realised electric was more my thing. I was just playing around at home, and signed up to Youtube where I started sharing videos of cover songs I was playing. I didn’t really think much of it besides wanting to share my passion with the world, so the response was pretty overwhelming as I ended up getting millions of views! Back then, it wasn’t many females my age doing that sort of thing, posting classic rock covers, so there seemed to be a market for it and it definitely helped me get where I am today!
I initially started out playing drums as a kid, and didn’t really get into guitar until I was 17. I’d watch people play Nirvana covers on YouTube and just copy what their hands were doing, that’s how I learnt the basics. I guess already knowing how to play an instrument was a bit of a head start but I wouldn’t really say I’m a real guitar player, I just wanted to be able to play the Nirvana songs.
Starting it all off and sparking the interest was definitely the household I grew up in, both my parents and older sister was very into music. My dad in particular is pretty much a rock ’n’ roll historical – not as a profession or a job, but for as long as I can remember he’s just always had this encyclopaedic knowledge about dates, record companies, releases, band members and tours, and he has this amazing vinyl collection that I’d go through as a kid, pick albums to listen to based on their covers and end up with bands such as KISS and The Monkees, but it wasn’t until he played me The Beatles everything changed; I even remember the day and exactly where we were, sat in our car parked up waiting for my sister, and he played me live at the BBC by The Beatles, and I think I must have been about six or seven, I was really young, but it just felt like real life magic.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Laura-Cox-Rockerverb-50H-PPC212-MD-Carlos-Fabian-2.jpg20033000Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Orange-Pics-logo-307px.pngElla Stormark2020-03-26 08:00:002020-03-26 09:02:45“How I got into playing” PT. II
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Susan: I was born in a small city in the southwest of Spain, Badajoz. I’m a self taught guitar player, and I’ve always been into songwriting. I started a band in my hometown, but eventually moved to Madrid in the hope of making a living from my music. There, I worked as a guitarist in a National TV show and in musical theatre. Eventually, I started working on my own stuff, which I’ve been doing ever since. I’ve toured Europe, the US and Mexico, and released five albums. My last one, ‘No U Turn’ won be the best musician performance in The European Blues Awards, and Best Album Female in The L.A Music Critics Awards.
How did you get into playing in the first place? Susan: I originally started playing Spanish guitar when I was 18, and about two years later I found the blues on the radio – I’d never heard this sort of music before, and I didn’t know what it was but I instantly fell in love with that sound! From that point, I discovered all the classics, Beatles, Hendrix, Cream, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and of course, Stevie Ray Vaughn – my head felt like it was gonna explode when I heard him, and I just knew I wanted to play electric guitar.
As a guitarist, is there anyone else besides Stevie Ray Vaughn that sort of stuck out to you? Susan: I’m influenced by a lot of artists, but Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Tom Petty and The Beatles all bring out a smile and fill me with energy.
On that note, there’s footage of you jamming with Billy Gibbons, how did that come about? As a ZZ Top fan, how was that experience? Susan: Last summer my band and I played the same festival as Billy Gibbons’ Supersonic Blues Machine, and they invited me on stage to play with them, and it was an amazing experience. Just imagine, Billy is one of my favourite guitarists of all time! He was a lovely guy, and it was really funny as he kept speaking to me in Spanish; “Hola Soy Guillermo…”. For that I played one of my other favourite amps, the Rockerverb 50 MKIII head – an awesome amp, perfect for a big stage.
You recently took our TremLord 30 on tour, how did you get on with it? Susan: The TremLord has the sound I always wanted, it’s got a warm and rounded tone, and it’s full of body. The tube tremolo with two speed settings and spring reverb is awesome, and I could use it for playing at home and get a great sound, changing the power mode from 30w down to just 1w. I’d recommend everyone to give it a go!
What do you look for in an amp?
Susan: I’m after a clean sound, with a rock tone. Sparkling, with full body. Before I was a full time musician I used to work in a guitar shop, and I tried a whole bunch of amps. It’s not easy to find clean tone without losing body, or losing tone with pedals. I’m incredibly happy with my current set up!
What sort of stuff are you currently listening to? Susan: I tend to listen to all kinds of music, as I find you can learn from all of them. Of course, I listen to a lot of rock, americana, country and soul. I’ve also been reading a lot of music biographies lately, about musicians such as Erik Satie, Tom Waits, Ravi Shankar and Woody Guthrie.
When catching up with Orange artists, one of the things we tend to ask is how they first got into playing – some were pretty much force-fed music from a young age growing up in musical homes, others found music for themselves. Over the next couple of weeks and as part of our ‘Learn the Orange Way’ campaign where we offer free guitar lessons for all Orange users (more on that here), we’ll be sharing a series of quotes from some of our artists on why how they got into playing.
Mainly KISS and Queen, they were my two main bands. Queen came to Brazil in 1981, but my mum wouldn’t let me go because I was too young. Then KISS came in 1983, and that was my first ever show. Being able to go see them live at their Creatures of The Night tour, was insane, that changed my life. That’s why I’m here! Seeing that, in my home town, at my football team’s stadium.. As I said, it changed everything. When I first started playing, my goal was to play ‘Stairway to Heaven’, so that’s what I told my teacher. She gave me the basics and a good ground to learn on, gradually. It started out with acoustic Brazilian music, before moving onto other things. Slowly I’d expand my music taste as well, and start listening to bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix and Cream, all of those incredible vintage sounding bands and artists. I’m also inspired by Brazilian music, and as I’ve become older and developed my taste I’ve picked up on a lot of the older Brazilian music, which has been a huge inspiration to Sepultura. That’s played a huge part in finding our sound, using Brazilian percussion and other bits from our more traditional music.
I was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the States when I was five. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad and uncles playing me music, those dudes loved Metallica. My dad would also drive me around with Pearl Jam on repeat. All my uncles played guitar, and my grandfather the cuatro, so I had early exposure to those instruments. I didn’t pick up a guitar myself until I was 15 or 16, when my dad finally got an acoustic for Christmas and I got bitten by the bug. Eventually I bought an Epiphone Les Paul for money I’d earned selling candy in high school, and once that was done I stopped doing just about everything else to pursue playing. I’d recently been turned onto At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta and was like ‘Damn, that dude’s got hair like mine and he shreds, let’s learn that shit!’ My dad also made sure I knew Led Zeppelin was the greatest band of all time, so I guess that shaped a lot of my playing too, Zeppelin>The Beatles
I come from a musical household where my dad would experiment with home made hi-fi speakers and play bands such as The Beatles, Beach Boys, Johnny Cash and Dylan, as well as church and choral music. My mum, brother and sisters were also into music and would dabble in guitar, piano and singing. When high school came around, my older brother introduced me to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Doors, and it was around this time I bought one of my first records which was Hendrix live. After that I just wanted to play guitar like him, he was a huge inspiration! Strawberry Fields was also a mind blowing experience when I first heard it.
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Andreas-Kisser-Sepultura-crop.png13111890Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Orange-Pics-logo-307px.pngElla Stormark2020-03-19 11:00:002020-05-26 13:44:31“How I got into playing” PT. I
Can we get the Black Futures lowdown? Space: We are Black Futures aka Space and Vibes, founders of the Black Futures Existential Expedition Club. We attempt to make music, sound and song akin to witnessing all the vivid beauty, violence and absurdity of life in one gigantic hit. Music to fend off the dread, and help us usher in the Niceage. A folk music, a future punk to help us all be collectively MAXIMUM. A tsunami of Joy, a Typhoon of wild abandon! We are both composers, producers and songwriters that have dedicated our life to the craft, culture and community. We are Empathy Machines for fellow radicals like Idles, Jamie Lenman, The Prodigy, Do Nothing, Libra Libra… We have traveled from Mumbai to Nepal to Tokyo to Joshua Tree to Chernobyl to ∞ and beyond creating and documenting the culture of our world. Never not nothing.
We’re loving your mission, and view of life and music – how did it all begin? Space: From my earliest memories, music was a necessity and obsession. My parents had an epic record collection and we were only allowed wooden toys, so listening to records and being in nature were the fuel for my childhood. Before the influence of the outside world I was on a healthy diet of Beefheart, Grieg, Hendrix, John Martyn, Rachmaninov, Joni Mitchell, Robert Johnson, The Beatles…. It was a wholesome diet! I was completely obsessed with the transformative and emotive power of music.
That’s a really interesting mix of music and genres, and intrestingly enough completely different from the music you make yourself with Black Futures. Space: I like to think of music as an empathy machine. I have always gravitated towards music that moves my mind and body to the MAXIMUM. We listen to such a vast amount of music. Whether it’s death, punk, classical, techno, pygmy choirs it has to have a transcendent effect on us. My first true experience of this was at my first gig. A friends dad had snuck us in to see the Ramones sometime in the mid 90’s. I wanted with every fibre of my body shake violently and loose control. I was terrified and completely alive. It was like swallowing the sun. So from then on, if it made me feel complete despair, anger, love, fear, energy, mystery I was all in. At the moment we are listening to Deathgrips, Lingua Ignota, Denzel Curry, Analogue Africa, Full of Hell, Colin Stetson, Tropical Fuck Storm, Oneohtrix Point, Bou, Turnstile, Sleep, H09909, The Clash, Lau, Bowie, Television, Mojave Lords and the Beatles.
Black Futures – how did it all begin? Space: We spent about 6 months scheming and writing. Developing the language, ideas and culture of Black Futures. Basically a couple of weirdos dreaming up wild ideas. The first anyone else knew about it was our first show. We sent out an invite with a location, time and password. The audience were blindfolded and taken to a secret location. Once the blindfolds were on we could be completely in control of the environment. We created our own Black Futures radio station featuring utopian muzak versions of our record and computer generated hosts. With the help of our BF family we built a secret laboratory in a recording studio hosted by a cast of Hazmats. This is where we performed what we called ‘ A Total Display of Love’ our first gig. It was a completely immersive experience designed to pull the audience as far away from their external lives and as close to that feeling of excitement, fear and joy as possible.
That is so rad, what an incredible first show! How did you guys come up with the concept? Space: It all stemmed from the idea of using everything in our arsenal to create a gig experience where the heady concoction of mystery, fear, wonder and energy is at its most potent. The idea is be so inclusive that everyone in the room feels comfortable to transcend conscious thought in their own individual way. That’s why we have a rolling cast of anonymous vibe conduits on stage and in the crowd at our shows. We aim for a totally immersive expression of joy, activism and pure raw energy. A celebration of the radical.
What’s your history and experience with Orange, and what do you look for in an amp? Space: The Rockerverb is the first amp I truly loved. It has been used on every record I have worked on in some shape or form. I was completely won over by the roar it made when you ragged the clean channel into breakup. Also the saturation of the gain channel, it seemed to have that heavy visceral violent tone without being too brittle and aggressive on the top end. What I look for in an amp, is for it to do one thing extremely well, to be unique and living. I am not a fan of loads of bells and whistles or that the price tag dictates the quality. One of my favourite amps is a tiny cigar box amp that Rat Scabies built for me. It’s powered by a 9volt battery and sounds like the sweetest trash.
What’s your current set up? Space: At the moment live I am playing a 1977 musicmaster bass that I loaded with a Thunderbird style pickup that Curtis Novak made for me. That gets split and runs through two different pedal signal chains. One side with a POG doing a bit of Octave down and just a smidge of octave up goes to a profile of a 70’s ampeg svt on a Kemper that I took when making a record. The other side goes into a Rockerverb 50 through a closed back Orange 2×12. The pedals vary all the time. I find that this setup allows me to take up as much frequency range as possible with a single note! ha ha.
I am definitely interested in exploring the bass butler and playing around with combinations of different guitar and bass rigs bi-amped for a monolithic sound. Also intrigued by the tremlord in the studio.
How would you describe Black Futures and your music to your friend’s grandma? Space: MAXIMUM! MAXIMUM! MAXIMUM!
https://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/BLACK-FUTURES-QFC-work-1-dev-final-scaled.jpg15662560Ella Stormarkhttps://orangeamps.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Orange-Pics-logo-307px.pngElla Stormark2020-03-18 09:00:002020-03-17 14:43:48Interview: Black Futures’ Space
RIFFLORD, who are you and what are you guys about? Wyatt: We started out back in 2007 in the basement of a punk house where 8 people were living. We were all in punk/hardcore bands at the time, and began digging into the roots of heavy music with bands like Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, Deep Purple and of course Black Sabbath lighting the path for us. We soon began hunting down every vintage tube amp we could find to recreate that tone. It’s been 13 years since then, members have come and gone but the core remains the same: loud tube amps, heavy drums, and a loud hammond organ. Being rural midwest boys we were raised with a lot of country and rebelled by listening to heavy/hard rock and metal. Bands and artists like T. Rex, MC5, Sabbath, Motorhead, Hawkwind, Judas Priest, ZZ Top, Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred Mcdowell, Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson formed us. When naming the band, our options for names were Kilowatt or RIFFLORD. Thankfully we chose the latter.
You’ve released two records so far, what can you tell us about them? Wyatt:“26 Mean and Heavy” was recorded and mixed by ourselves in a basement of the Riff Easy mansion. It was a house that we shared with some local skateboarders. It would repeatedly flood so we had our orange 4×12’s on cinder blocks to protect them from water damage. The house was cursed, literally. The lightbulbs overhead would explode from time to time, a strange black sludge began rolling out of drains in the house, voices appeared on recordings that weren’t suppose to be there. We were messing with some Jimmy Page/Crowley magik then. You can hear that grimy magik on the record, haha. “7 Cremation Ground” was a year and a half challenge. Recorded and mixed by Mike Dresch of Cathouse Studios. I had moved out to our ranch and the rest of the members were living in different states, Texas, Minnesota, and another 3 hours from me in South Dakota. We sent files, bought plane tickets and spent countless hours in car rides to make it happen. When it was all said and done the material spanned over a decades worth of songs pulling from all spectrums of musical influence.
Let’s get down to business, what’s your history and experiences with Orange? Wyatt: I first saw one in a pawn shop in Rapid City SD, it was the Orange Hustler Reverb Twin. They had it priced at $125 and i was too young to afford it. The Next sighting was the infamous Black Sabbath live video which made me pine for that sound. My first ever Orange Amp was a gift from my now wife Tory. An Orange twin channel AD140. It was straight thunder. It sonically stood out from anything i had ever heard or played. It started me down a slippery slope which is now a loving addiction. My current Orange collection is two graphic only OR120’s, an OR80, an Overdrive 120, an OR100, and an AD200b.
What do you guys look for in an amp, and what’s the bands current set up? Wyatt: It needs to be able to handle a lot of low end while maintaining clarity, pedal friendly, and not to be that guy, but its got to look good. Orange is all of the above. We’re currently running:
Guitars: two OR120 and an OR100 through two 6×12’s, OR120 and OR80 through two 6×12’s
Hammond Organ/Keys: AD200b through a 2×15 and a 4×10.
Bass: AD200b through 8×10 and 2×15
How does a day in the life of Rifflord look like? Iommi worship and chill? Wyatt: After we take care of the chores on the ranch its stacking cabs, plugging in heads, and cooking tubes.
Anyone who’s seen Kaleidobolt live knows they’re a force of nature, fuelled by Nordic darkness, and we are stoked to welcome guitarist Sampo to the Orange family! Find out more about him and his love for our funny looking but great sounding amps below.
Okay, let’s get down to the very basics for our readers to get to know you – who are you? Sampo: I’m a 25-year old fellow playing guitar in a band called Kaleidobolt. You can call me a musician nowadays, since I don’t work in gambling industry anymore, haha. One of my first music related memories is when my dad sat my brother and me down in a dark room to listen to “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” at full volume. Powerful stuff when the stuff you’d been listening so far was The Smurfs CD’s. I really fell for this music thingy when my mother got a guitar for her birthday, I was 11, and mesmerised by the instrument. Due to a combination of my mum’s lack of motivation to learn how to play and me being overwhelmed by how cool the guitar was, as well as having nothing better to do, it ended up being me becoming the guitarist of us. As I got older, I went to Kuopio Senior High of Music and Dance, before I eventually left Kuopio for Helsinki, as the Kuopio music scene was rather dull. I ended up joining Kaleidobolt in Helsinki, where I still am six years later, having also just become endorsed by Orange. Woo! It all came together!
Kaleidobolt, how did you guys all meet and end up playing together? Sampo: The original line up came alive when our bass player Marco moved to Finland and wanted to start a band. We all found each other through this Finnish website where you can put ads out to look for musicians to play with. Normally this particular website should be avoided at all costs, but we got super lucky for some reason. Marco and our previous drummer Valtteri started playing together and mastered rhythm duties while still searching for a guitarist. At the time, I was in a jazz-fusion band where the average age was about 47. It was an educational experience, but I wanted to properly start ROCKING OUT, and ended up contacting Marco. At first I thought they Kaleidobolt were looking for a guitarist and backing singer, but I somehow got tricked into singing lead. But yeah, I haven’t looked back since. After our latest tour our beloved drummer Valtteri chose to step down from the drum throne, and we heard through friends that this dude Mårten from Finnish hardcore band Foreseen could fill some major boots, and oh boy, he fills.
Your music carries elements from a lot of different genres, do you come from varied musical backgrounds? Sampo: We have a lot of common ground but we have enough varied taste among the band to make song writing really hard and time consuming from time to time. But, the harder the work the bigger the reward, and at the end of the day it’s all hugs and high fives. At the moment, song writing feels really easy for the first time ever, which almost slightly worried me. But, I think I’m gonna enjoy it while it lasts.
Nordic countries seem to be producing sweet heavy music like there’s no tomorrow, can you tell us a bit about the Helsinki music scene? Sampo: In Helsinki and Finland in general there’s not enough people to have explicit scene for different genres which is really cool. You can see all these same people who attend to punk or psychedelic rock gigs at jazz gigs or whatever. I think you can hear it in music of many Helsinki bands since it’s all big beautiful mess of different genres.
You guys are a pretty damn impressive live band, how often do you rehearse, gig, jam or whatever? Sampo: Haha, Thanks! We did our base work back in the days, rehearsing so much that while touring we can concentrate on all other kinds of activities instead. Again, harder the work the bigger the reward I guess! Of course, it’s not bullshit when people say that gigs are the the best practice, and after this month and a half long tour we did with Radio Moscow a while back I could’ve been dead and still play a gig – NOT FAR AWAY FROM TRUTH TO BE HONEST.
As a guitarist, who was your main influence getting started? Sampo: It was and will always be: Pat Metheny, Alvin Lee and Jukka Tolonen. No one plays guitar as beautifully as Pat Metheny. Alvin Lee has the most badass guitar face, and Jukka Tolonen is so of a combination of the two (minus the guitar face). Pat Metheny Group’s S/T album, Ten Years After’s ‘Live at Woodstock’, and Jukka Tolonen first two solo albums is all I need to know when it comes to playing guitar.
Orange – what’s your history and experience with the brand? Sampo: When I was a teenager I remember referring to Orange amps as “those funny looking amps”, and I think the first time I even saw one was some Black Sabbath TV performance. Before recording our first album we had to get me a proper amp and borrowed an Orange AD-140 from a friend, and that was actually first time I tried Orange, and I immediately fell for it. I sort of held onto the amp for a bit longer than I was meant to, to my friend’s annoyance. After handing it back, I went to a music store the next day and spent an afternoon trying out different amps, and I ended up buying Rockerverb 100 MKII which surprised and still surprises me with just how gosh darn versatile it is! Nowadays I refer to them as “funny looking great sounding amps”.
What do you look for in an amp, and what’s your current set up? Sampo: Versatility. I like playing jazz, I like playing heavier stuff, I like bright clean sounds, I like all kinds of different stuff. With Kaleidobolt we’ve got a variety of different sounding shenanigans going on, so it’s pretty important that the gear can handle that. I’ve been playing Rockerverb 100 MKII for six years now and it has been just magnificent. When I joined Kaleidobolt and wanted a muddy guitar sound, it was there for me, and when I wanted to do ripping solos, it was there for me. When we started doing songs which needed a twangier sound, it was somehow still there for me. It still amazes me how simple it is to use and manages to adapt in any situation, which is so great as I’m not any kind of gear head, and honestly a bit lazy when it comes to these things, so I’ve been lucky to have this kind of loyal companion with me all these years. No matter if we’re in studio or tour I can always trust that little buddy. Never had any problems with it whatsoever, maintenance or sound wise. So so, summa summarum: I use Orange Rockerverb 100 MKII with Orange PPC412 and Hiwatt cabinets (looking for another PPC412 by the way, in Finland it’s pretty hard to find those, WINK WINK…)
For those who’s not familiar with Khemmis, can we get a brief introduction? Ben: I moved from Mississippi to Colorado in August 2012 to begin my PhD at CU Boulder. I put an ad on Craigslist looking for some folks to play heavy music in the style of Neurosis, YOB, Rwake, etc, and nobody responded. I reposted it with a picture of Jawas carrying a Sunn Model T and Dan responded fairly quickly. We met up at TRVE Brewing to grab a drink and talk music. We didn’t know it at the time, but the head brewer, Zach, had recently relocated from Texas and was itching to create some heavy tunes too. Phil was actually a student in the same PhD program that I’d just entered, and I mentioned to him that some folks and I were putting together a band and were looking for a singer. Although he had never sung in a band before, he had cool gear and good taste in music. After the two of us got together and jammed on a bunch of riffs through obnoxiously loud amplifiers, I immediately knew we’d found our Huckleberry.
Khemmis was an ancient Egyptian city, any particular reason why you went with that as a name? Naming a band sucks. We landed on Khemmis because it’s short, doesn’t tie us to any singular sound/style, and someone else hadn’t already taken it.
For the average Orange reader, how would you describe your music? Khemmis: We call ourselves doomed heavy metal. We draw inspiration from a wide variety of metal subgenres such as death, black, sludge and trad, but we strive to ground our music in the feeling(s) most strongly associated with doom metal. That said, I recently saw someone on Twitter describe us as “Candlemass meets OSDM” (old school death metal), and we really dig that description as well.
….aaaand how would you describe it to your grandma? The Devil’s Music.
Okay – let’s talk gear; what are your different history and experiences with Orange?Ben: Shockingly, I don’t think I ever played an Orange amplifier until our set at Psycho Las Vegas in 2017. I plugged into a Rockerverb 100 and a pair of PPC412s that night and conjured the best tone I’d ever had in this band. I knew and loved the magical Orange cabs, but that amp blew me away. As luck would have it, our friend Eddie of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Beer Guy podcast was in attendance along with Alex from Orange Amps. We got off the stage, took our guitars to the hotel room, and then saw a message from Eddie saying that Orange wanted to talk to us about working together. We soon sold off the amps we’d been using and all switched to the same kickass Orange heads we’re still using today. Though that was the first time I’d played a Rockerverb, I own a PPC412 with v30s and WGS ET65s in an X-pattern that has been “the cab” on everyKhemmis recording. Dave Otero, our producer, has been trying to buy the cab from me for years!
Dan: Ben sounded amazing that night. I saw Sleep with Matt’s wall of amps, mostly of the Orange variety. I was sold in that evening, and knew that nothing crushes like an Orange.
Phil: That Orange sounded so much better than the Marshall I played that night. It was night and day what the better amp was.
What’s your current set ups? Ben: We’re not the sort of band that throws a Muff or Rat in front of an amp from the 70s and calls it a day. That’s not to say that approach is flawed—it just isn’t the one for us. Phil and I both use Rockerverb 100 MKIII heads, which are simply the perfect amps for our sound; the gain channel is thick with just a touch of fuzz while retaining the clarity to allow complex chord voices to ring out without turning into a pile of mush. Even though we both use the same head, our guitars and signal paths allow for two decidedly different flavours of heaviness. My main guitars are both Dunable Asteroids (flying Vs). My go-to has a mahogany body and neck, burl maple top, ebony fretboard, and Seymour Duncan JB and 59 pickups. It is the best guitar in the world. My other Asteroid has a maple body and neck with a claro walnut top, maple fretboard, and SD Nazgul and Sentient humbuckers. I use a lot of “flavour” effects to add texture to our music, but my main rhythm tone is a Seymour Duncan 805 into the dirt channel. I switch from the 805 to a KHDK Ghoul Jr to shape my lead tone a bit differently, cutting some lows and adding a bit of grit to make my solos slice through our wall of riffs. I use a Fortin Zuul, which is the best noise gate I’ve ever used, to keep things quiet and under control.
Phil: I try to keep things relatively simple while complementing and filling out the space not occupied as much by Ben and Dan’s sounds. I also use a Dunable Asteroid (mine is mahogany with a maple cap), loaded with some humbucker sized p90s that Dunable built for me, and I play very, VERY hard with my picking hand. I have a Reverend Volcano with p90s as a backup, which sounds very similar and is also a great guitar. Naturally the p90/heavy handed playing combo produces a lot of upper mid range and very ‘present’ sounds, so I have my Rockerverb and pedals tailored to emphasise that. My main dirt is a Way Huge Saucy Box overdrive, which I like because it doesn’t really effect the tone of my guitar other than adding a bit more “push” to the amp, and I use the Orange Two Stroke EQ in the effects loop for solo boosts to get some additional volume, cut low end, and boost the upper mids a bit more. Other than that I rely on Mr Black pedals for some ambiance, their Wolfmoon for reverb and the SS 850 for delay, which I absolutely love and never take off my board.
Dan: The first time I plugged into an AD200, I knew it was exactly right for me. Tubeyness and plenty of headroom… but just enough to still get that growl. The Orange 810 is dark and doomy without losing expression. I don’t know if a cab can be tight and fat at the same time, but if it is indeed possible, the Orange has achieved it. I am keeping pedals quite simple these days. Before the amp, the venerable Darkglass Alpha Omega Ultra is the go-to, mostly-on, pedal. On occasion I’ll add the DOD Preamp 250 in front of the UltraOmegaOk. A touch of the Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster in the back reintroduces some thickness. Much or all of this may be replaced with the Orange Bass Butler, which I experienced for the first time at NAMM. Ade and Alex hung out with us during the demo, from which I am still recovering. I’ve enjoyed playing Dunable Basses for many years. However, like all true gear heads, I’ve had fun mixing and matching a bit. The mainstay for touring in 2019 was the Sandberg California Grand Dark TM4. I also have a very cool Sandberg VS4 that is far too nice to travel with. The Grand Dark is very versatile, sounds great, and plays oh so very nice.
You’re heading to the UK for the first time ever in a couple of months where you’ll be playing Desertfest London, are you pumped? Ben: We are honored to be part of Desertfest and can’t wait to finally perform the UK. The lineup is nuts! Quite a few folks in the Nuclear Blast UK office have been asking when we’d finally make it over there, and we can’t imagine a better debut than being part of Desertfest.
Dan: So very excited. I love London. I was able to visit for the first time in 2018 and I just couldn’t get over the rich history, architecture, and musical pedigree of the city. Desertfest is a tremendous honor.
Phil: I’ve never been, and I’m am super excited! It is a great fest in a really cool part of the world that I’ve always wanted to visit. I’m hoping to stay after for a bit on my own and make a vacation out of it.
Your latest album ‘Desolation’ was released in 2018, will there be a follow up soon? Maybe some new material played live in London….? Khemmis: We recently began writing for album #4, but these things take time to get right. That said, we might have a new track ready for Desertfest, who knows? Regardless, we do have new material coming out this year. We contributed a song to Magnetic Eye Records’ reimagining of Alice in Chain’s Dirt, one of the most important albums ever to me. That should arrive this spring. We also have something special that we’ll be announcing sometime next month. What could it be? Stay tuned, hellions!
Give us your best joke – GO! How do you think the unthinkable? … With an itheberg..
Last time we spoke was back in 2018, a couple of weeks before you released ‘Peace’, what you’ve been up to since? Truls: We’ve been incredibly busy, and if I backtrack even just a couple of months there was a couple of dates in Australia, followed by a North American east coast tour with Black Mountain in September, which was actually one of my all time favourite tours as we played a bunch of weird, small cities and towns we’d never played before. After that, we toured Europe and the UK supporting Clutch, and as we speak we’re getting ready to head back out to the states again supporting Opeth.
Damn that’ll be some amazing shows! Between all this touring, have you started working on any new material yet? Truls: Yeah we’re excited, that’ll be a good tour, and we’ll get to play some amazing venues too. As far as new material goes, we’re always working even if it’s just a little bit here and a little bit there. We did however manage to get in a little session just before Christmas while in Madrid. We did two shows out there there with Clutch and had a day off in between, so we took the opportunity to meet up with a friend of ours who has a studio there and worked on some stuff then. We tend to work best under pressure though, so our plan is to take some time off to actually get going in the studio in March. Everyone’s been sketching and collecting ideas for new songs, so we’re excited to put all our efforts together and create new songs, and hopefully record in the summer and autumn.
Back in 2015 you released a solo album, are you still working on your own stuff? Truls: I’m constantly writing and always surrounded by instruments and recording equipment making music, but my main focus is Graveyard. Having a solo career isn’t something I’m bothered about. I do tend to make music with friends though, that’s kind of just a way of hanging out. We get together and just fuck around with instruments and jams, and sometimes something comes out of it and you might listen back to it the next day and think ‘Damn, that’s not bad at all!’ I mean, I wouldn’t mind releasing another solo record, but I’m more into collaborating with whoever’s around and down to jam.
You guys are heading back to London in spring for Desertfest, what’s your thoughts on playing the festival again? Truls: It’ll be great to return to Desertfest, we played Koko last time, and this year we’ll be closing the festival at Electric Ballroom on the Sunday night. Desertfest’s always fun, there’s always a bunch of friends around so it sort of becomes a reunion.
So, Orange – you’ve been playing the AD200 for quite some time now, you still happy with it? Truls: Absolutely! I’ve tried a few other amps but for me there’s just no comparison; If you wanna play rock ’n’ roll, there’s no amp like the AD200. There’s been times we’ve showed up to festivals and they haven’t been able to get me an Orange amp for whatever reason, and there I’ve been in a jungle of amps trying to find a replacement, then realising the cool looking 70s amps might sound like shit, while some ugly looking 80s amp sounds somewhat alright. I know what I like, and I’ve never been particularly friendly with either Ampeg or Fender amps as they’re just not for me. I love the AD200, and it’s sort of a clean slate amp, just add a pedal to it for it to really come alive – I use a Tube Screamer just to get that slightly more distorted sound. I’ve got the black AD200, and although the orange coloured ones are obviously great, I dig the really jazzy ones, I’d love a white one!