Posts

Art always had a huge place in my life. As a kid and teenager, I was an anxious and introverted person and my social life was quite inexistent. I will always remember this feeling of peace I would experience when I was closing the door of my room to go to my little desk and start drawing. I could spend hours creating stories and my own comic books. Everything was possible and this idea always triggered something special in me! When I discovered music, especially metal, with Metallica, Iron Maiden and Testament being the bands I was the most into, it has been a pure revelation for me! I was incredibly empowered while listening to what felt like a type of music crafted for people like me. It was the first time for me to feel so alive! Music had a way to put everything else into another perspective. Suddenly, all the school bullying and anxiety that came with it was gone, only the uplifting spirit of the music mattered for whatever brief of a moment it was.

The next step was for me to embody that empowering spirit by learning to play an instrument myself. In a way, my introduction to guitar probably had the same roots as so many others, but for me, it became the only reason I had to live. School didn’t change, bullies kept on bullying, my broken home kept on getting crazier, but music truly changed everything for me. To the eyes of others, I was still the nerdy guy looking like everybody’s bad joke (When your father says you look great with those glasses, one of those old accountant shirts and a pair of jeans which doesn’t even have a brand, well you’re not going in the good direction, trust me on that one!). Picture that “kid” holding a huge acoustic guitar plugged into a BOSS Metal Zone and a transistor Fender amp… Now you would say that I look trendy and cool… Well, there was a much more darker world before Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend, Mac DeMarco and Weezer! So let’s say I didn’t receive much invitations to join bands in high school. Nobody wanted to have Kenny Rogers (RIP) in a Metallica cover band.

I didn’t care that much, because I was suddenly free in a way.

You’re currently playing with Alex Henry Foster, how did that come about?
Sef: Before Alex Henry Foster started his solo project, I was involved with him in a rock band called ‘Your Favorite Enemies’ for about 10 years! YFE has been an incredible creative outlet for me. We toured all over the world, had radio top 10 hits and won all sorts of awards but Alex, who was the band’s driving force, wasn’t really happy… and when his father passed away, he left for Tangier, Morocco to take some time to meditate and write, for 2 years. After a while, he invited us to North Africa for us to spend some time together. That reconnection opened the door for the other members of YFE and myself to be part of his new personal music ventures. It was great news for everyone, but we all had to unlearn the way we used to play our instruments and to let go of all our deeply rooted conceptions of how to write, perform and especially improvise.

Alex’s only rule was this: “Forget everything you ever learned with YFE; from the way you played your instruments to what you ever decided music was about. If you can do that, you’re in. If you can’t, it’s better to not even try to.” So it was really simple, right? Well, if you’re ready to unlearn and redefine yourself, it’s easy. To Alex’s credit, his vision of art has always been freedom. No wonder why he is the one who introduced me, many years ago, to Sonic Youth, Branca, Nick Cave and so many other artists I felt so remote from as a metalhead. Post-rock, what? Shoegaze, noise rock, avant-garde, experimental… it was all nonsense for me. No guitar solos, no sweep picking… what??? For me, Sonic Youth was a total aberration, especially after all the years I had spent emulating Yngwie Malmsteen’s style! But once Alex’s idea started to sink in, I became obsessed with guitar effects and noise experimentations. It was pretty much the same sensation as when I started to play guitar… freedom and emancipation… a new creative language in a way. And that new realm of possibilities had no boundaries! Sorry Thurston and Lee… I may have been a little judgmental at times. Are we still friends?!?

Have you got any other ongoing musical projects?
I have my own instrumental thing going on as well. I released an album called Deconstruction a little more than a year ago. I got into Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ music a while back and wanted to sonically explore away from a collaborative environment… and since Your Favorite Enemies have an absolutely amazing recording studio, I started to experiment with synth, loops and odd guitar tunings in order to create a different way to craft sounds and landscapes. It was the personal extension of the musical exploration Alex had invited me to dwell into. That experience generated a new emancipating dimension. 

As a guitarist, who would you say are your biggest influences?
That’s a very difficult question to answer because I might hurt some of my friends’ feelings if I don’t mention their names or if they ever believed they were an inspiration for me. But, I think that if there was only one name to mention it would be Nels Cline, and for so many different reasons. First, he’s singular and unique, he doesn’t brag, he doesn’t try to be someone else… he is who he is… and I’ve learned to know how incredible of a thing it is. Secondly, his free musical approach towards creation. He’s playing jazz, experimental noise, punk rock, alternative, shoegaze, psychedelic and whatever moves him! I discovered him when I went to see Wilco with Alex during the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot period thinking: “Ah, yes, Alternative Americana… boring.” But how wrong was I again as I not only discovered a brilliant creative universe but couldn’t believe how into it Nels was… intense, always on the edge… and just how insane and intriguing it was to see him giving life to all sorts of sounds with his pedals. And most importantly, all of that was to serve the emotions of the songs. Brilliant and real. 

What are you currently listening to?
Sef:
The album Ummagumma by Pink Floyd, which is odd because I don’t consider myself a fan of Pink Floyd in the first place. It’s Jeff (Alex Henry Foster’s bassist and former YFE guitar player) who introduced me to that album. I was a bit skeptical at first. I’ve never been a fan of the song “MONNNNNEYYYYYYY” that kept on playing 25 times every night when I was working in a factory. So when I first listened to it, it was again the perfect and pure expression of what artistic freedom is about, with many bewitching musical landscapes in which you easily lose yourself!

What’s your history and experience with Orange, and what’s your current set up?
Sef: It started back in 2012 during the writing process of Your Favorite Enemies’ album “Between Illness and Migration”. I was looking for a richer tone, something with personality but that wouldn’t take over the different guitar singularity I had. It took me a while to find it actually. I tried every possible brands available, from the usual ones up to the underground boutique ones. I bought some of them but still wasn’t totally satisfied. I tried different alternatives… pedals, amps modelling and other kinds of things, until a friend working at my favorite music store in Montreal told me, kept on telling me and bugging me “You want an Orange amp” up to, “Dude, you NEED an Orange amp!”
So one afternoon, I finally decided to give it a try, but with my rig. You should have seen me going in the store with all my stuff, it was laughable. Some people are probably still talking about it! It was indeed insane, but I did try different Orange amps. And when I heard the sound of it, nothing else existed around me. When I cranked the preamp, the overdriven sound was tight, rich, powerful, focused and reproducing faithfully the different harmonics of my guitar. I stayed there 3 hours passed the store’s closing hours. No joke. 


My choice, beside the fact that I wanted them all, stopped at the Thunderverb 200 with the cab PPC412HP8 (with four 100 watts Celestion G12K-100 speakers). It immediately became my faithful “partner” in the studio and was the corner stone of my live gear set up with Your Favorite Enemies, especially since the Channel B was a perfect place for me to plug all my different pedals. I was also using the 4 method cables to connect some of my effects, like delays and reverbs, after the preamp section of the amp (Yes, even if there are no laws regarding that, a reverb before distortion can sound a bit messy!). So I was able to get the best of my time-based effects with the big distortion from my Thunderverb 200! A game changer in every possible way for me! As for now, since Alex asked us to change our whole rig for his project, I’m using the same cab (don’t tell him!) but I mostly use the Custom Shop 50! The clean sound is outstanding and it’s the perfect template for my big spaceship (the name my bandmates gave to my pedalboard). Oh, funny enough, it’s Alex who’s now using the Thunderverb 200 for all his guitar noises and textural sounds. But since he doesn’t use guitars the way they were created for, it’s clearly far from YFE’s sound, trust me! And since Jeff is now playing bass in Alex’s project, he is using the AD200B MK3 Orange bass head. We do have a crazy lot more of different brands and all sorts of equipments available at the YFE studio, but we always end up going back to Orange to express ourselves.

Best quarantine activity?
Sef: I got back from a tour across Europe on March 12 with the rest of the band and was ordered to stay in quarantine until further notice. Even Alex, who now lives in the US, wasn’t able to go back home. So now that we’re all living together, in our studio (which is a massive Catholic church we converted into a recording and rehearsal space), we are doing live stream performances to introduce Alex’s new album “Windows in the Sky” to be released on May 1, 2020. 

Here’s our latest performance of a 30-minute version of the song “The Hunter (By the Seaside Window)” off Alex Henry Foster’s solo project, live from our church-studio. The performance starts at 43:30.

Photo by Carla Mundy

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.

Photo by Carla Mundy

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?!

img_5757

During the first night of their two sold out co-headline shows at London’s Boston Music Room, I caught up with Black Peak’s Andrew Gosden and HECK’s Matt Reynolds to find out how life on the road is, and how it is sharing the spotlight. But more importantly, what their weapon of choice would be during a potential zombie apocalypse.

How is it being on a co-headliner tour compared to touring on your own?
Andrew: This tour has been great so far. It’s really interesting and exciting playing a co-headliner, you get the opportunity to play in front of people who may not necessarily buy tickets to see you, a bit like playing at a festival. It feels like the audiences have been open and accepting of both bands. I think it is a great mix of music with something for everyone. You can have a sing and rock out to our songs, and also experience the pure insanity and awesomeness of HECK!
Matt: At the very start of the tour I imagined it was  going to be incredibly nerve wracking going up against Black Peaks every night. They’re such an enormous sounding live band that it was a daunting prospect. After a few days of the tour that all faded away, although we’re both very different bands it became very evident quite quickly that we play off each other very well, both of our fan bases have come together in a wonderful way too. Having four guys that we now consider our brothers in Black Peaks side stage every night only spurs us on and feeds our appetite for carnage. I’ve been in the pit for Peaks nearly every night… Having said that, that bass guy, Guss or something I think they call him, he’s a bit of a prick.

Where did the idea of the tour come from?
Matt:
We made friends over the festival season, both Black Peaks and us were playing a lot of the same stages and I guess subliminally it just made us want to recreate that dynamic between us on a tour. It just seems to make sense, it’s like kicking an audiences ass in two very different ways every night.
Andrew: The idea of doing this co-headliner had been floating around for a while. As soon as the opportunity to play with HECK became a reality we jumped at it. We are all huge fans of the band and thought it would be great fun. They are such lovely guys!

You’re both in pretty heavy bands, is there any bands or artists you’ve been influenced by that plays music completely different to the one you play yourself?
Andrew: I listen to such a varied mix of music that I guess even subconsciously I will be taking influence from so many different genres. I am a huge fan of 70’s prog rock. Bands such as Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull are in constant rotation on my iPod. I am also a huge fan of bands like Autolux, Young Widows and Bjork who are very different to the music we play.
Matt: LOADS! Our van playlists are pretty much entirely made up of wonderful, luscious, over-produced pop, Steely Dan and Hall and Oates are particular favourites. Our van is chock packed full to the rafters with wall-to-wall bangers! Influences wise I’ve always listened to tonnes of blues music too, which has definitely shaped the way I write and play

Any guilty pleasures?
Andrew: I own a copy of Madonnas ‘like a virgin’ record. It’s such a great album. I guess that can be classed as a guilty pleasure..
Matt: I’d argue to the death that You’re the Voice by John Farnham is the greatest song ever written. It’s also unfollowable, there’s not a track in the world that can be played after that doesn’t then sound flat and lifeless. Robbie has been creeping in an awful lot recently too, the cheeky badger.

How does a day in the life of HECK and Black Peaks on the road look like?
Andrew: At the beginning of the tour it started off quite civilised. Now it has descended into a torrent of passive aggressive abuse and sarcastic banter.
Matt: Toil and bedlam. With a pub lunch at Weatherspoons for an hour at about 6pm-ish.

Do you remember your first ever encounter with Orange, whether it was seeing it or playing it yourself?
Matt:
I just remember seeing them on stages and in videos as a kid and thinking that they were just so damn cool and iconic. All of the coolest bands seemed to use them, it was only a matter of time until I took the plunge and got one too, I’ve played through nothing else since. When I was old enough to have a full-time job I spent my entire first month’s wages on a Rocker 30 and 2×12. I bunged it in my tiny box of a bedroom and used to give the neighbours and my ear drums hell, it was really dumb and definitely too big for my bedroom, the door couldn’t even open fully with it in there, I just had to kind of side step my way through. But I loved it and I’ve not looked back since!
Andrew: The first time I really noticed Orange amps was when I saw Converge for the first time. That iconic look and sound gripped me and I knew they were the amps I wanted to use from then on.

What do you look for in an amp?
Andrew: Something that sounds great is simple to use and reliable.
Matt:  Yeah, something that sounds huge and can withstand the horror that I throw at it! With Orange it’s all about crushing bottom end and unashamed ballsyness.

What’s your current set up, amps and pedals?
Andrew: I am currently using my AD200 and a Thunderverb 50, each running through an Orange 4×10 cab. I run the AD200 relatively clean and have the Thunderverb running really dirty. I am using the Orange amp detonator to split my signal between the 2 amps. I have the AD200 running all the time and kick in the Thunderverb for heavy sections and parts where Joe is soloing or playing lead lines.
Matt: I currently use a Thunderverb 200 (the greatest and most ridiculous guitar amp ever made) through a 2×12 and 4×12 loaded with V30s. I have a fairly simple pedalboard, but some absolutely choice little bits of wizardry on there. My favourite of which is my original Russian big muff, built like a tank and flattens like a steamroller. I couple it with a Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer to achieve some ridiculously gnarly square-waved sub bass madness. I also use a EHX pitchfork and a Disaster Transport modulated delay by Earthquaker for gentler moments.

It’s the zombie apocalypse – choose your weapon of choice and explain your reasoning.
Andrew: It depends what kind of zombies we are talking about?! I think I would have to go for a crossbow. You don’t have to worry too much about ammo running out as you can reuse the arrows, you can pick them off at a safe distance and use it as a melee weapon up close. I’d like to think I’d be a badass like Darryl from The Walking Dead. In reality I don’t think I’d last too long……
Matt: I’m going with (Dillinger Escape Plan’s) Greg Puciato’s eternally punching arms. I’m not sure exactly how that would work, I guess I’d just attach them to my chest and let them punch away. They’re like a horse’s legs with hammers attached. I can just imagine them relentlessly punching away reducing zombies to rubble. No one would fuck with a guy with hammer-horse-legged arms sticking out of his chest. I’d shit ’em.

Portfolio Items