When I got this column last year, I was so stoked; to have a platform of my own where I could share my thoughts and excitement about music, and the weird and wonderful world around it. No editors and no rules, with the exception of keeping the ‘F’ word to a minimum. This month, I’ve decided to let someone else ramble on for a bit, as I wanted to share in whole this piece Peter Hughes of Sons of Huns and formerly of Danava wrote about the late, great, Roky Erickson. I asked for a few word about his favourite record, and the finished result was more than anything I could have hoped for; a heartfelt ode to one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock. Thank you Peter, and thank you Roky. – Ella Stormark

Peter Hughes of Sons of Huns

Roky Erickson was a Texas-born rock ’n’ roll howler best known for his early years with The 13th Floor Elevators, whose lysergic reverb-soaked hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me” was written by Roky at the tender age of 15 and would endure as his highest charting song and the definitive composition of his career. The 13th Floor Elevators are credited as the first Psychedelic Rock group and their first two albums, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators & Easter Everywhere are the most notable. The Elevators LSD-steeped sound rippled across Texas west to San Francisco and clearly influenced the sonic palette of a number of bands that went on to enjoy larger commercial success, the heavyweight of the bunch being boogie behemoths & fellow Texas natives ZZ Top. Guitar hero Billy Gibbons first found his footing on the Texas club circuit with his band The Moving Sidewalks (an obvious nod to the Elevators, as Gibbons himself freely admits) who later toured as the opening act for Hendrix before going on to form ZZ Top. Even Janis Joplin considered contributing her soulful blues-tinged vocals to the 13th Floor Elevators before deciding to head to San Francisco instead.

Roky’s psychedelic period was cut short after a series of drug arrests, culminating in his apprehension onstage in Austin August of 1969 for marijuana possession, which resulted in two Police cruisers being destroyed by fans in the ensuing riot. Unfortunately, Roky was subsequently committed to Rusk Maximum Security Prison for the Criminally Insane after pleading insanity when faced with the narcotics charges. He would spend the following 3 years in Rusk during which Roky was involuntarily subjected to electroshock therapy and forcefully dosed with Thorazine after being diagnosed as schizophrenic, though this would not be his first or last stay in such a facility. One too many LSD bad trip freak-outs combined with underlying mental health issues in the ‘60s were then compounded by the traumatic environment of the psychiatric hospital and the cruel abuses he suffered in the stead of effective medical treatment during his stay there. These hardships proved to have no small influence on the sound and subject matter of Roky’s music, who had begun to believe that a Martian inhabited his body. This is reflected in the first iteration of Roky’s new group named ‘Bleib Alien’ that first appeared in 1975. This was eventually changed to a more radio-friendly version ‘Roky Erickson & the Aliens’ in 1977 when the group started working on demos for a new album with Creedence Clear Water Revival bassist Stu Cook. The 15 songs recorded during the sessions with Cook from 1977-79 would form the Horror Hard Rock body of work from which a number of alternately titled albums were released (Self/Titled-1980, also called Runes or Five Symbols due to the ambiguous cover art, & The Evil One-1981) and would serve as the songbook from which Roky would base the majority of his live sets during this period and when he resurfaced in the 2000s.

Roky’s return to performing live deserves considerable credit to the aid of his younger brother Sumner Erickson, without whom he likely may not have overcome the odds. After Sumner gained legal guardianship of Roky, he sought the long needed medical treatment for his older brother as well as legal aid to help Roky reclaim licensing rights to his back catalogue, much of which he was cheated out of by greedy labels & others. Austin Texas studio engineer Doug Sahm once traded Roky a smoothie for three of his most timeless songs “Two-Headed Dog”, the love song “Starry Eyes”, and “Don’t Slander Me” once after a session. The must-see documentary released in 2005 titled “You’re Gonna Miss Me” after the hit from his Elevators days also played a large role in exposing his music and life to a whole new audience.

“Two-Headed Dog” kicks off the album with the harsh cries of Bill Miller’s electric autoharp, which adds a signature flavor of psychedelic sound to the group, a bright twang somewhat reminiscent of the familiar electric guitar strum and similar in function to the electric jug playing of Tommy Hall in 13th Floor Elevators, but with s strange otherworldly timbre all of it’s own. This is my favourite track on the album and Roky’s distinctive rock ’n’ roll tenor snarl screams and wails with confidence “Two-headed dog, two-headed dog, I been workin’ in the Kremlin with a two-headed dog!” In addition to Roky’s tortured yelps the other element that gets me every time is the killer lead guitar playing of Duane ‘Bird’ Aslaksen, with his hottest licks heard flying over Roky & the rhythm section pounding away on “Cold Night for Alligators.” The last standout tracks are the two slow-burners “Night of the Vampire” and “Stand for the Fire Demon”, the end of the A & B-side respectively. In “Night of the Vampire” Roky warns, “The moon may be full, the moon may be white, All I know is you’ll feel his bite Tonight… is the Night of the Vampire” before the whole band joined now by eerie overdubbed organ leans into a macabre minor-key melody that would be at home as a foundational basso continuo progression in a Baroque Fantasia. The closing track in the 10 song first release of Roky Erickson & The Aliens’ 1980 self-titled album summons listeners to “Stand for the Fire Demon.” This final performance covers the widest range of dynamics, from subdued backup singers alternating ‘oh-ohs’ with Erickson’s lines delivered with the most controlled restraint,
    
  “Stand for the fire demon
      Spirits say ‘boo’ and the paper
      bursts into fire,
      Stand for the fire demon
      wilder, wilder, wilder, wilder,”

through to full-on pounding electric bass & drums with waves of dual overdrive-saturated guitars crashing on top and Roky’s haunting screams riding above all as he commands,

      “Stand for the fire demon
      Stand for the demon of fire
      Stand for the demon of fiiiiire!”

It is worthwhile to note that after numerous different versions were released over the years, in 2013 Light in the Attic Records released an edition of’ The Evil One’ with 2xLPs containing all 15 songs recorded by Roky & the Aliens during the 1977-79 sessions with Stu Cook and is worth obtaining if for no other reason than the inclusion of Roky’s chilling song “Bloody Hammer.” Roky died last May 2019 aged 71, his music as relevant now in these uncertain times as ever as we face a global pandemic that threatens to usher in untold evils, not to mention stands to spoil Record Store Day leaving vinyl stores empty with most folks fearfully self-quarantined at home. Looking back on the entirety of Roky’s life, his hardships and struggles in the end are unequivocally outweighed by his triumphs in music, early on with psychedelic rock and later Horror Rock and ultimately with his output finding renewed acceptance and culminating in Roky enjoying the most widespread success of his career with a commendable final effort he finished strong with performances at festivals and on tour both throughout the US and abroad.

‘Rest In Peace Roky ’Starry-Eyed’ Forever.

By Peter Hughes

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.

Andreas Kisser, Sepultura

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.

Lord Paisley, Heavy Temple & Grave Bathers

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

Sarah Jane, Gorilla

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.

Orange Amplification is delighted to announce their online foundation Rock Guitar Course is now FREE with any purchase of an Orange amp, combo, cab or pedal. Plus, all existing owners of Orange products can now register their products and gain FREE access to the same course.

The Orange Foundation Rock Guitar Course is a fun, easy and fast way to really learn how to play rock guitar. It offers new and returning guitarists enjoyable lessons, a wealth of downloadable material, access to online tutors and video guides.

Whatever their music tastes, students can learn to play the music they like, in a way that suits them best, anywhere and at any time. The Orange online Rock Guitar Course incorporates many different methods for learning whether going it alone, with a teacher in real life or online, via the website, using the guided videos or any combination of these tools.

All participants completing the Orange foundation Rock Guitar Course will acquire all the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to achieve a recognised guitar exam provided by the OnlineMusicExam platform, the world’s first accredited online guitar exams.

For more than half a century, Orange has supported and encouraged people to take up the guitar and play music. The Orange Rock Guitar Course truly teaches students how to play and offers the opportunity for guitarists to achieve a qualification on the instrument they love.

To find out more please go to orangeamps.com/learn and register your gear at https://orangeamps.com/support/#register-my-gear to claim your free course!

BLACK FUTURES by Rob Blackham / www.blackhamimages.com

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.

Photo by Murry Deaves

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!

RIFFLORD by Isaac Show

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.

Photo by Isaac Show.

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.

Photo by Isaac Show.
Photo by Isaac Show

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

Photo by Isaac Show.

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.

RIFFLORD on Instagram & Facebook

Kaleidobolt’s Sampo Kääriäinen by Marco Menestrina

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.

Kaleidobolt by Mika Paananen

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..

London based Bad Day Blues Band are having a pretty good time at the moment. Voted best New Blues Band 2019, their album sitting at number 2 in the iTunes Blues Chart and a pretty relentless touring schedule means they barely have a chance to catch their breath.

We invited lead singer and bassist, Adam, to come into our HQ to take the weight off for a moment and talk through the Bass Butler. Since it’s release, this incredibly useful bit of kit has been a significant feature in Adam’s rig.

Hero Jr. by Steve Rose

Hero Jr – for those who doesn’t know the band, can we get some background?
Hero Jr. is a rock band influenced by classic 70s British rock, American vintage Grunge and punk. We are Evan Haughey on vocals and guitar, Dave DuBrava on bass, Ryan Keyes on drums, and myself on guitar. The four of us come from different rock backgrounds and generations, but are fans of bands from all genres that can both write quality songs and perform them fiercely on stage.  We are all about being on the road and going for it live. We are not a jam, band but we never play our songs the same way and always change up the sets because we have two and a half hours of original material. The way we approach bringing our songs from record to the stage is inspired by and in the spirit of Zeppelin and Hendrix. We’ve been on the road from day one and have played over 800 national shows in all the band’s incarnations since 2010. 

The way the band has evolved and how we’ve grown is amazing, and we have become family through our music. We have a great work ethic, and have booked and managed ourselves from the start. It’s a given that we have to write and perform at a high level, but that is only a small part of what we need to do as a band to move up the food chain, and the bond we have solidified over working together as a business inspires our music and is a huge part of our fan appeal.  We are very DIY and we love being creative and working together.  Whether we are in front of 10 people in a club or thousands at a festival Hero Jr. is the band I’ve always dreamed of being in.

The story of how we all came together as a band is unique and will be told in detail in the March issue of Music Mayhem Magazine and will also be up on the their website today.

You’re about to release a new single ‘Deep End Price Tag’ – what can you tell us about it?
“Deep End Price Tag” is one of nine songs Evan and I wrote in a week that we blocked out to write the new album.  We sat in the living room on acoustic guitars, very organic and stress free, and everything just flowed.  Evan and I have great chemistry, even though we are loud and electric we write the old fashioned way.  If the songs are tight as compositions we can crush them when we plug in.  At that point we bring the songs into the band and fine tune the arrangements while we all find our parts.  We always rehearse three days a week if we are not on the road, which gives us time to experiment.  We never have a plan but we know what doesn’t work and we know how to stop when the song is finished. 

We put a small studio in the living room and are recording totally live, vocals included, without headphones.  We didn’t overdub.  We monitor the vocals like we do in rehearsal and when we nail a take the bleed through is minimal and plays a part in the ambience of the recordings. In such a small space, and with the blasting volume, it’s kind of hit and miss so we experiment with microphone placement until it feels right.  All our favourite albums were made in similar fashion, with vibe taking priority over the purity of the recording.  Everything, including the new video for the first single was done live in the living room, with the only ‘out of house’ addition the recording process is our long time mastering engineer and South London wiz Ed Woods.

Hero Jr. by Steve Rose

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your musical background?
I started playing guitar when I was 12.  Not for wanting to play an instrument, but because my parents said I had to in the name of “culture”.  I was into sports and my first guitar experience was in a group, with a fat necked nylon string, and a circle of girls.  I hated it.  I was “offered” the same choice the following year and had an amazing private teacher in a music store near my house.  He had a file cabinet of popular songs with chord charts and I could choose one per week to learn, along with my note exercises.  Although I don’t recommend it he also got me high.  Needless to say, that was the end of my sports career.  

My first electric was an old Gibson SG I got in the used section of the first Guitar Center in W. Hollywood in L.A.  I stayed in my room and practiced until my fingers could’t take anymore.  Even though I ended up forgetting most of my “theory”, I studied jazz and played in the school band and in school musicals. My first die hard musical loves were Jimmy Page and Neil Young, and I could have swore Page talked to me through his playing.  I understood all of the places he was going, especially when he went for things and almost fell off the cliff. The Zeppelin energy was like a drug for me, best pocket ever for heavy rock.  Neil Young had the same thing, and was also an amazing storyteller and untamed shredder.  Cortez The Killer has always been a favourite. I have always been attracted to well written songs and bombastic dynamics.  My other big love is blues and classic R&B and 70s funk, Sly, The Meters, BB King – there is so much amazing vibe and creativity out there. 

In Los Angeles I was working with a lot of Europeans and ended up signing to Warner Music in Germany.  I really didn’t fit into the Munich pop writing world but I also didn’t have a band to rock with so I kept writing and learning to write while I was doing it.  I would say the major turning point in my career was working with Andre Lewis (Zappa, Buddy Miles, Johnny Guitar Watson, Mandre and tons more). 

When my Warner contract ended there was a one year period that my contract wouldn’t allow me to sign elsewhere so I took a blues gig with Dre.  I sucked bad.  He was going through a rough patch and he needed cash and had gigs.  At the beginning I was just a body with a guitar so he could pay for his party habit.  My rock chops and volume did not cut it in hotel bars and jazzier venues and Dre beat the crap out of me.  When he called me a “punk ass white boy without a pocket and dynamics” he was not lying. Dre was my dude and he  linked me to all my British blues/rock heroes via the culture of all their influences from the 50s-70s American blues scene. It took a year and change but he did it and my guitar playing started to turn around and I began to develop my style.  Dre was a child prodigy and funk/blues genius, playing a strap on keyboard through amps, like a guitar, he was a motherfucker.  Sadly few of his solo recordings do him justice because he was like Prince, Sly and all those old school dudes in one…right down to the purple pimped out fedora.  I miss him a lot and have a debt of gratitude for his patience, mentoring and non-forgiving badass attitude.  RIP brother!

While living in Munich I began traveling to London to work. As a writer, I was beginning to get more opportunities so I put the guitar to rest and was back at songwriting to get cuts. I got some of them but was never satisfied and always longed for rock music. Besides Dre, I worked on projects with artists that had real rock cred and those projects brought me back to my guitar.  The first was working with Henry Small (Prism, John Entwistle’s Rock, Burton Cummings) who was, and still is, an important mentor and friend, and then Tony Carey (Blackmore’s Rainbow). The Tony Carey and Planet P albums we made indirectly led to my meeting with Evan. I eventually moved to London, where I stayed for ten years. I love the British music vibe and I found it very inspiring to live there.  Besides Nashville, London is the only city that I get goosebumps straight off the plane.  Maybe it’s the spirit of The Stones, Zeppelin, Floyd, Sabbath, and many of my go to bands.  In London I began working with more indie and alternative writers.

Hero Jr. by Steve Rose

What’s your relationship and history with Orange?
I was introduced to Orange by my Livingston studio mates Romeo and Michele Stodart from Magic Numbers. I was playing vintage Marshall JMP 50 watt combos and AC30s but did not want to take them on the road in America. I ended up getting introduced to Orange USA in Atlanta and started using an OR50 and a PPC212 cab.  You guys guaranteed I would love my Orange and I haven’t played may Marshall’s since. Sometimes I will use a Rockerverb 50 MKIII and, on occasion, a Dual Terror. The RV50 through a PPC112 is great for outside sessions and I love the way all my Oranges take effects, especially dirty ones. It’s the only amp I’ve played that can handle my 90s Green Russian Muff on top of the Orange gain. I love the Orange gear and it suits my style.  The PPC212 has the best bottom end and it compliments Evan’s rig to the point that together we often sound like one big guitar.  The Orange pedals are great as well and I am always using the Kongpressor and Fur Coat on sessions.  I always keep a Mini Crush on the road and love that thing. The Getaway driver is another killer pedal, especially the speaker simulator output.  That’s a great backstage with headphones vibe. All of the Orange gear is built great and sounds warm and fat.  A-1 rock all around!  Orange has become part of Hero Jr.

What’s your current set up?
All Orange in the amp department.  Mostly the OR50 / PPC212 and sometimes I take the RV50 out.  Those combos kill both big and small rooms as a half-stacks. I’m a Gibson guy and play a 72 Les Paul Standard as my number one. Les Pauls and Orange are the best! Gibson just sent me a Custom Shop 60s Standard re-issue that has a similar feel to my 72.  I’m not a real tech person and mostly go by feel. I play the same guitar all set unless I break a string, which I never do since I switched to DR (11-50) Strings.  Game changers! It’s the first time I actually noticed a dramatic difference in strings and everything sounds better with them, and they (knock on wood) NEVER break. I rarely use effects but at times use a Dunlop Echoplex Delay, Echopark Harmonic Boost, vintage Phase 90, Memory Man and Green Russian Muff, and a CAE Wah.  If the guitar and amp can’t do it by themselves nothing will help. 

What’s next for Hero Jr?
Four rock and roll gents having a go at world domination and bringing our living room to as many people as possible.

Find Hero Jr & Ken on social media: Instagram // Facebook // Ken on IG // Hero Jr. Website //

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!