So, let’s take this back to the beginning – how did you first get 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 covers 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!
Have you always been into writing lyrics or was that something that came naturally once you started making your own music? That was something that came at a later stage, as I was only interested in the musical aspect of it all to begin with. I was actually playing on my own for about seven or eight years, and it wasn’t until 2011 I finally made it out of my bedroom and into the real world, something I have my other guitarist Mathieu to thank for as he was the one that told me to get in front of some real people instead of just playing in front of my webcam, as music is meant to be shared. We ended up starting the band together and have been writing together ever since. Doing it this way worked for me, but I’d advise other beginners to start a band and play with other people earlier on, as it was definitely a weak point for me for quite some time, as it took me a while to get used to it after doing it on my own for nearly a decade.
You released your second album ‘Burning Bright’ early November, what can you tell us about it? First of all, it’s definitely a lot darker than my first record ‘Hard Blues Shot’. We recorded it in January after a two year long writing process. We’ve actually been playing some of the songs live for almost a year and a half despite the record being just recently released. As far as the writing and recording process goes, it’s normally myself and Mathieu coming up with a riff, followed by writing the lyrics to go along with it. Once that’s done, we get the other guys, our bassist François and drummer Antonin in and we arrange the rest of it together. Bass, drums and rhythm guitar was all recorded live, before adding lead guitar and vocals.
So, let’s get down to business – what’s your history and experiences with Orange? My first ever Orange amp was the Dual Terror, simply because of it’s size and it being small enough for me to carry myself. I’ve changed it up a bit throughout the years, but I’ve stuck with Orange as that sorta became my sound.
Can you run us through your rig updates and upgrades? After a while I ended up wanting a bigger head, and went for a Rockerverb 50. I stuck with this for years, before I recently upgraded to the Rockerverb 100 instead, which I love. My set up depends slightly on the size venue I play, my go-to is four 4×12 cabs and two Rockerverb 100 heads – however, if I’m playing a smaller venue I tend to just cut this in half and go for the two cabs and one head. Regardless of the size of the set up, I love the look of the Oranges on stage, and I can’t get enough of that grain! My other guitarist plays Marshall, and I dig that we have such different tones, as I find the two really compliments each other.
To just dive right in there and continue where I left it off at my last post; we left Bristol slightly later than expected, and after a quick pit stop at Electric Ladyland we set sail towards the land of Black Sabbath – Birmingham. A few hours of blasting Birmingham’s finest kings of darkness in the tour van, and we rolled up to the The Castle & Falcon, which apparently up to very recently, used to host mainly bands playing Irish music.
Support bands for the evening were local bands Luna & The Moonhounds and You Dirty Blue, and I’ll be honest with you – I missed out on pretty much both of their sets for the sole reason that we had a TV that could play youtube videos in the backstage area, and I choose to spend that time horizontal on the sofa while requesting live videos of Grand Funk Railroad – that Paul would refuse to play as he was already knee deep in old Captain Beyond. Fair enough.
All the way from Stoke-On-Trent band Psyence’s Jamie and Jamie had embarked on an hour long car journey to attend the gig, leaving one Jamie to indulge in all the booze while the other one had to soberly watch him do so. As Radio Moscow started playing, I had the pleasure of watching both of their reactions to their first ever Radio Moscow experience, and it was pure joy and excitement in their eyes;
«Radio Moscow. Hands down the best gig I have ever been to. The man is like Hendrix reincarnated!» Jamie Bellingham, Psyence bassist.
When the night ended we packed up our stuff and headed to the swanky hotel we were meant to stay at, only to find out a mix up had been made and that there was no more rooms left. That was ok though, who wants soft, comfy beds at 1am anyway when you can be stranded in the rain instead? We headed back to The Castle & Falcon where they took us in with open arms and sorted us out in the cozy backstage area by re-stocking the fridge we’d previously emptied for beer, making sure we’d stay hydrated through out the night. At this point, we were all pretty much partied out, and Netflix seemed like a great idea. I broke out my brightly coloured green sleeping bag yet again as we all tuned in to watch Ozark, and it took me about 15 minutes before I crashed, burned and fell asleep on the floor.
Last night was the third and final night with the Groundhogs, and I dare say it’s been the best night so far. There’s been a lot of speculations around Groundhogs touring without founding member and original frontman Tony McPhee, and to be fair, I wasn’t around to experience ‘em back in the day, but personally, I cant imagine them ever being any better than they are now with current frontman and lead guitarist Chris D’Avoine, who’s boosting as much charisma as he is talent.
As mentioned in my last post, there were rumours going that Radio Moscow guitarist Parker Griggs would join the Groundhogs on stage, and after having a sneak peak during soundcheck, I got even more excited for the show. Groundhogs played an impeccable set before being joined by Parker on stage for the final hurrah, ‘Cherry Red’, of their 1971 album ‘Split’, and just when you thought Groundhogs couldn’t be louder and more powerful – they did. Three guitars, extended solos and jamming galore. Damn, I almost needed a cigarette after that and I don’t even smoke.
Once everyone’d had some time to gather the pieces from their blown minds, it was yet again time for Radio Moscow to take the stage, and it pretty quickly dawned upon me that they’re either getting better and better every night, or that my brain just haven’t been evolved enough to wrap my head around their humongous musical talent, and is only becoming so now as I’ve been exposed to it over an extended period of time. I could go on about how good they are and draw insane comparisons, but let’s be honest, I’m with them for another day and I cant make ‘em too big for their boots just yet.
While sat in the backstage area after the show, I ended up chatting to Groundhogs drummer Ken Pustelnik who asked me if I’d heard the story about how himself and Parker originally met;
«It was a late night in Bristol when I saw these three long haired guys who looked totally out of place in an area they shouldn’t be wandering around in, so I walked up them and asked if they were alright, as they looked a bit lost; ‘Are you looking for the train station?’ ‘No, we’ve just played our first ever gigs over here in the UK, and we didn’t get paid. We’re struggling a bit as we can’t get back home to Iowa.’ So we ended up taking them back to ours, and I got them a few gigs, their first ever paid ones in Britain, and eventually they managed to make the money to get back to the states. Parker was about 17 at the time, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.»
What are the odds – three seventeen year old broke musicians in a foreign country with no place to stay or way to get home gets approached by a guy who just happens to be Ken from the Groundhogs, someone kind enough to house them, and has the connections to get them paid gigs and back on their feet. What a guy!
As we left I pretty much crashed in the van while everyone else was ready to party it up at the house. When we arrived, it didn’t take long before Anthony fell asleep under the kitchen table – that guy can sleep pretty much anywhere and through anything, which is a skill I highly admire. I hung out for a bit, before retracting myself upstairs and into my borrowed brightly colored green sleeping bag around 3am, while listening in on something that sounded like Rage Against the Machine blasting out from the speakers downstairs. Five hours later, I wake up to find photographer JT stretched out on the floor, as Parker climbs into the other bed having been carried away in conversations about ‘life and music’ with drummer Paul until the light of day – which means heading to bed about two hours before we were meant to pack up and go at 10.30.
Hey man, who are you, what’s your band, and what are you guys up to? Dennis: Hey, I’m Dennis, I sing and play guitar in Ghost Bath. We play depressive, suicidal black metal, and we’re on Nuclear Blast! We’re currently on tour – we got here on the 5th of May, and we’re flying back to the states on the 26th of June, and I reckon we’ll have about a total of ten days off in that time. Busy times!
It’s a pretty accurate description that, ‘depressive suicidal, black metal’ – when you started up the band did you all want to play ‘depressive suicidal, black metal’, or did you come from a black metal background and just wanted to do something a little bit different? Dennis: Until 2015, I was the only member of the band and writing all the music. Originally I heard bands such as Agalloch and was really into them, as well as bands such as SBM (Scream Blue Murder), and I wanted to make depressive suicidal, black metal that was recorded very well, as a lot of the recording quality on that sort of music is – I wont say it’s bad, but purposely made more rough, so I wanted to take that and have it more polished.
Makes sense, a lot of the black metal sounds like it’s been recorded in some cave in a Norwegian mountain at night time, in winter.
Anyway, you recently released your latest record ‘Starmourner’, how’s that been received? Dennis: It’s been pretty polarizing like all of our stuff, people either love it or hate it, but a lot of people have said it’s more of a grower not a shower, basically. The first time you hear it you’re not quite sure what to think of it, then the more you listen to it the more you’ll get into it, and I get that myself with music as well; a lot of the records I listen to today was records I wasn’t quite sure of at first, and then they slowly grew on me.
Now, let’s get down to business; Orange Amps. What’s your history with the company? Dennis: I grew up in a small town in the mid-west in the US, but we still had a decent music scene. One time this one band I was really into and looked up to brought out this Orange Amp on stage, and it just looked so cool and really stood out with the bright colour. I’m not too sure how old I was, but I reckon it was early teens. Since these were guys I looked up to, I just knew that I needed to get an amp like that eventually, and I finally did about eight years ago when I got a Rockerverb 100, which I could just plug in and play, I don’t even have to tweak anything, it just sounds better than all the other amps I’ve had, and that’s literally all I’ve used since.
From doing these interviews that’s probably what I’ve heard the most – ‘I just plug in and play’, which is exactly what you want. You don’t want to sit there for 40 minutes fiddling around, tweaking a bunch of knobs. Dennis: Yeah, I had a Rectifier before the Orange, and that one I couldn’t even tweak. I’d be at it tweaking for weeks just all like ‘ugh oh why…’. So yeah, I’ve never looked back after I got an Orange!
Welcome to the family! What’s your thoughts having just become an official Orange ambassador? I’m very excited to be part of the Orange family! Orange has been the dream amp or me for a while and it’s an absolute honor to be accepted as an ambassador of the brand. I was invited to the HQ a few months ago to try some amps with the techs and they were super helpful with ensuring I was getting the right tone and the best sound, not only out of the amps, but for Vodun to sound as huge as possible.
What was your first ever encounter with Orange? I first came across Orange amps when the Datsuns returned from the UK to New Zealand to play The Big Day Out 2004. Being a keen 17 year old guitarist, I spent most of my time dreaming of guitars and amps, and when The Datsuns stepped out onto the stage in front of bold Orange cabs it blew my mind! I had never seen such a bold, brightly-coloured amp or heard of the Orange brand before. A few days later I did some research into availability in NZ, but sadly being so far away from England, the only amps readily available and affordable were anything getting imported through Asia. It wouldn’t been until I set foot in London 3 years ago with just a guitar that I would be able to get my hands on one at Red Dog Music in Clapham. The guys were really helpful down there and as I plugged into a TH30 they saw my eyes light up – I bought it that day.
Now that you’re officially a part of the family, how does your brand spanking new Orange rig look like? It looks, (and sounds) amazing. I’m still working on my rig’s design, but then again when has a guitarist ever not got their eye on the next pedal to add to the chain? Big shows means I’m running 3 rigs off one guitar, so I have my original TH30 as stage right, OB-1 500 Bass rig next to it with 4 x 10 cab, and my main amp is a Rockerverb III 100 through a 4 x 12. This allows me to get the feel of a full band, dropping in bass and a second guitar as needed as well as panning left and right. Smaller shows I strip it back to the Rockerverb III 100 and OB-1 500 but they still deliver great tone and punch! I throw them either side of the stage to help thicken the sound. I really love how huge the bass rig has made us sound – the built in gain in the head helps keep my signal as big as possible, where previously it was getting squashed by effects pedals.
Can you tell us a bit about your band? Vodun is a three piece heavy psychedelic band with afrobeat inspired drums and a soul singer. Although we’re a three piece, there’s no bass player – hence why it’s so important for me to make sure my sound is as huge as possible. Vodun was actually the first band I saw live when I arrived in London and they completely blew me away! I joined after the original guitarist Ollie had to step down, but in true ritualistic spirit his Gibson guitar lives on with the band and I still use it in shows. Vodun as a religion is rooted in animism, it’s positive at its core and celebrates women in its worship of female Loas or Goddesses. As a band, we draw on this for inspiration and we try to make our shows a positive spiritualistic experience.
You guys put on quite the performance when playing live, what’s the story behind the make up and costumes? The short and sweet answer is “to give you a reason to come and witness live music, for it to be an out of this world experience and so that you aren’t at a show thinking ‘this sounds better on CD’. More than that though, it gets us into character for our live ritual. Zel and I will always start the set staring each other down as if we are going into battle, clearing our thoughts and allowing the music to take over completely. The makeup and costumes are inspired from West African culture to help add to the aesthetic and performance of the band. I don’t think the audience at our shows would feel the same spiritual experience if we just played in black jeans and a baggy shirt. Kinda like when KISS took their makeup off….
How would you explain Vodun’s music to your, mine, or someone else’s grandmother? I played Possession to my Nan when I was home earlier this year for my sisters wedding, “Nan, this is my loud band from London, I think you’ll like the singer, she has a great soul voice and you have been to one of my old bands shows so you know it will be loud. I’ll start you with Bloodstones so you can ease into it”
To someone elses grandmother: It’s a beautiful chaos that represents the world as we know it; we have the godly soulful voice that brings peace and harmony, we have the loud aggressive beats that can bring the deafening destruction of earth quakes and volcanoes then we have the guitar which drifts between both of these two like the human race, kind and gentle one minute and greedily struggling to be heard over the weight of the world the next – you also might want to turn your hearing aid down…
As an emerging London band, is there any other bands or artists you’ve come across we should keep an eye at? Being fairly new to this side of the world, most bands I come across I haven’t heard of before as it takes a long time for some bands to get to NZ, so I may have mentioned some bands that have been around a bit longer than newly established but are fresh to my ears.
A couple that come to mind immediately:
Causal Nun – We had the pleasure of having them on the bill at our album release show in London and they’re causing a bit of a stir.
Church of the Cosmic Skull – Recently released their debut album to a sold out crowd. The band members have previously played for some great bands.
His Masters Voice – Genuine down to earth fantastic people, album due to be released soon, but as they are from NZ you wont get to see them live unless you are on holiday there. But go check out their style of the devils blues Jessie has a wicked voice.
Petrol Girls– Pure passion and always blow me away with their genuine execution.
HECK– They torn the Big Red apart at the Kerrang nominations and it was just a truly impressive show. Slabdragger, Limb, Derelics, Shitwife… There is too much choice in London, I can’t keep up.
How has life been for Vodun since the release of “Possession” earlier this year? Life has been hectic in a very positive way, the album has been received really well and our small tribe of followers seems to be growing bigger by the day. It’s been fantastic chatting to people after shows who have turned up not knowing what to expect and are then rendered speechless by our performance! We are getting some great gigs coming in, played Stonefree Festival with Alice Cooper and The Darkness as well as the childhood dream gig of playing Bloodstock alongside Twisted Sister, Slayer, Anthrax, Mastodon, I’m really looking forward to playing some more great European festivals next year. we have also had some great press come in – it’s a bit of an unreal experience picking up a copy of Kerrang or Classic Rock to send copies back home to your mum. In short, life seems ridiculous!
What’s next? Album 2! it’s going to take a lot of hard work to execute another album like Possession and keep pushing boundaries, but we’ve started gathering ideas so hopefully you should hear some new tracks being vibed out at live shows soon. We’re heading to Europe in October to play Desertfest Antwerp and a few dates in Germany then Italy. There’s a music video in the works and a UK tour with Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats at the end of the year. We’re certainly keeping busy, and it looks likely to be even more the case for next year. All fantastic news, especially now I have my new Orange rig behind me!