Interview: Vincent Black Shadow
Never heard of them? Then where have you been hiding? Vincent Black Shadow has a loud, energetic, no nonsense approach to heavy music. Stripped to the bone, they will rock and flatten. If in doubt, take on their second record, “More Deeper” and just see who comes out unscathed. Standing behind the guitar on the right is Dan O and this is how he spilled his guts four years ago shortly after it had been released…
Alright Dan, thanks for taking the time for a chinwag! Knowing very little about your collective background, would you explain how and when you met? What brought you together as a band? Did you have any goals beyond making a hell of a racket?
The band started as a continuation of an old band that Rufus (drums), Dave (guitar, then noise) and I were in with a different singer and bass player. Shit, I’ve been playing with Rufus for the better part of the 2000s. We wrote our first few songs, parted ways with the singer and started what would become Vincent Black Shadow. We just wanted to play shows. No projects any of us had done had really gone anywhere. In fact, this is the first real band Dave and Adam have been in. It was a little more towards the stoner rock thing at first, and we didn’t really wile out or scum up as much as we do now. This was… Five years ago? Four? It seems like ages ago. I think we all were a lot nicer back then.
Vincent Black Shadow is a decidedly ambiguous name for that very purpose. So who or what is this crooked character?
The Vincent Black Shadow is a motorcycle made in the ‘40s and’ 50s by the Vincent Motorcycle Company. It’s some sort of super death machine. Hunter S. Thompson wrote that “if you ride a Vincent Black Shadow at top speed for any amount of time… you will surely die”. One of our buddies is a real bike freak, and before he met us, he heard of our band name and got all mad that we’d take it from this macho bike. After hearing the first record, he changed his tune, and even hosted us for some wild times in Seattle on our last tour.
The cover sleeve of “More Deeper” seems to be a fitting yet twisted interpretation of it given that the five hooded figures are visible yet their faces have been obscured by the light! Is that the point? Who came up with it?
We had a hell of a time coming up with artwork for the record (it took us two months AFTER the thing was recorded and mastered). When you get five idiots in a room, it’s sometimes difficult for them to agree. I mean, totally impossible for them to agree. It makes fascism look refreshing, believe me. It got to the point where we were coming up with the worst ideas ever to piss each other off. It was terrible. Luckily we asked the endlessly capable Natasha Tylea to capture our lack of coherency on film, and we had to use our brains only minimally. The picture is definitely mysterious, which is funny, because, as dudes, we have about as much mystique as a hamburger.
So has the monochrome medieval imagery of the debut artwork been scrapped or is it simply a matter of evolution?
Well, the first record had a drawing (done by our label-man Francesco); we wanted to mess with photography the second time around. I don’t even want to start thinking about artwork for the future, that’s going to be another clusterfuck, FOR SURE.
Anyway, congratulations on that wild snarling beast of a new record! More certainly seems to be the recurring theme. More heaviness. More urgency. More venom. And definitely more volume. What’s at the root of this angry transformation?
2006 and 2007 were not good. Not good at all. We had someone quit the band the first day of our first tour (which was actually a good thing because we got the almighty DIRCK on bass). We had a now-defunct English record label blow ten tons of smoke up our asses about a UK release that got pulled weeks before its release. We did a couple of really grueling tours where fucked up shit went down on a regular basis. Adam got the cops called on him at our own South-By-Southwest showcase (which is classic in retrospect). I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything, mind you. Nothing turned out the way it was supposed to, and we learned the hard way to keep our expectations low; most people involved in music are bigger scumbags than we are.
It has been stressed that you recorded live to analogue tape. How significant is this technique for the band and are you satisfied with the results?
We’re not analog loyalists by any stretch of the imagination. We wanted to try tape, and were pleased with the results, but aren’t married to it. The first record and our new stuff are all done to protools, which is a little more practical (and cost-efficient) in this day and age. The live aspect is essential though. I can’t imagine tracking everything for our recordings. I dunno if we could do it. I mean, we want to capture the live show as closely as possible, which I think we do, even though we’re not nearly as fucked up in the studio as we are on stage.
If you had to select a highlight from the finished article what would it be?
Basically, what I liked most about the record is that it’s dark as hell, but not nihilistic necessarily. Its psychedelic, but definitely more like a terrible acid trip. Like hallucinating in the dirtiest public restroom. I think it accurately illustrates what it’s like to be a young scumbag in America during an absolute national low-point. Rather than being about depression or hatred, it’s more about scraping bottom and fucking and dissipating to fool yourself into thinking you’re not scraping bottom and getting fucked and dissipated.
Surely there’s a vinyl pressing in the pipeline? Wax is essential!
I agree. If you hear about anyone who wants to do it, lemme know.
Sadly, the lyrics have not been printed this time around. Will you offer some insights on the content beneath these strange titles? Humour? Frustration? General chaos? If in doubt, speculate…
Adam should print his lyrics, because I think they would qualify him to get on disability! Ha! Ha! But really, he does have some lyrics that are humorous, but not in a ridiculous absurd way. It’s always exciting to see how many times he can say “fuck” in a song, and also where he’ll insert it extraneously. We have a radio show coming up in a couple of days, and he’s scrambling to learn the songs without cursing. Or at least without cursing coherently. The first record had more linear, situational lyrics based on stuff like our neighborhood and jobs. Now we actually come up with song titles before lyrics to get a general theme to songs before he starts writing them, sometimes with the help of Rufus. Hm, some examples are “Pacman Jones” which is about a pro Football player who was involved in a gunfight at a strip club. “Shamanix” was this concept we came up with on the first US tour. If you don’t mind me quoting a previous interview, I ascertained that it’s the “mystic power of retarded suggestion”. Kind of like subliminal communication, only drunk. “Dome City” is about Washington, D.C. and how much it really, really, really, really sucks. Some song titles you can look forward to in the future are “Cold Piss” and “Pussy Heaven,” the latter being a BLUE VELVET reference.
What happens next? Do you feel that you need to spend time promoting the album, will you take a break or dive headlong into more frenzied rehearsals?
Hah, actually, MORE DEEPER was in the can well over a year ago, so it’s not quite as new to us as to everyone else. We’ve already recorded six songs for an upcoming split LP on Rocket Recordings. We are VERY pleased with them. Writing and recording regularly is important to us; I think touring for two years off of one album would be a nightmare. I’d hate to end up resenting our own material as getting in the way of new songs getting written. Of course “More Deeper” songs are included in every set we play, and we even played some songs off of the self-titled record on tour. We have some tour dates coming up down south in November, and beyond that, just writing and recording for another split record or full length.
Like many others, the band lacks a formal website. Has Myspace usurped that territory and its associated functions? How significant a tool has it been?
As much as I would love to have a real website, it’s just another expense that we can’t handle, and it would require a third party to maintain because we’re all still in the stone age. I don’t even have a cellular phone. We’re retarded. I don’t hate myspace because it’s not a person that’s done me wrong. It’s a tool. I mean, it’s ridiculous and pathetic to use a website to further your social life, or to make you feel like your band is achieving something by pressing buttons and requesting friends. For booking, though, it’s great. It’s just like email. I’d much rather direct someone to our myspace page than take weekly trips to the post office, rolling the dice on a response by giving away cds that we and our label have worked hard to put out.
Given the immediately accessible online community and its vast resources, why do you feel inclined to release records and appear in printed publications? Is there still merit in it or are you just an old crusty romantic?
If there was a nuclear war tomorrow, it’s a good likelihood that the internet wouldn’t exist. I’d like to think that if the future were like MAD MAX, the post-apocalyptic warriors would be able to salvage cds, records and tapes and blast them during gasoline raids. Lord Humongous would be our biggest fan. That’s reality (cough). The internet could easily become a memory any day now. Not to mention, as some sentimental bullshit, one of the best things about collecting records is holding the cover in your hands and examining it while you’re listening to it. That being said, I’m a terrible record collector, I destroy everything. Adam and Dave have pretty impressive LP collections though, and have been known to DJ now and then.
Playing live seems to be your lifeblood. What have been the ups and down on the road? Which memories will you cherish to the grave? Why?
The definite DOWN to touring is these fucking nazi gas prices. Fuck them in the face. SERIOUSLY. The only good thing about them is that they’re thinning the herd, and bullshit bands are starting to move aside. At least I hope so. That might be fantasy, because bullshit is popular these days.
The upside of touring is, you know, getting to travel with a purpose, and having people everywhere you go. I hate tourism, traveling somewhere just to walk around and take pictures is stupid. I feel like a jerk. Through touring, you get all your favorite jerks in a van, and you see what type of crazy situations you can get into (and out of). We’ve met the ugliest strippers imaginable in Kansas. Adam held an unloaded glock 9mm (USA!) to Dave’s head in Healdsburg, CA. We’ve gotten panhandled for weed in Arcata California. Dirck fell and hit his arm in Olympia Washington so badly that it swelled up to twice its size and turned black for two weeks. I exposed myself to the whole band on the streets of Denver Colorado. And of course we’ve met girls, gotten drunk, fought each other and made a ton of good friends and saw some killer bands along the way. We can’t get enough of it. I just wish we had funds to do another USA tour and DEFINITELY someone to fly us out to the UK and Europe.
If you had a free reign, with whom would you like to tour?
Oh lord, that’s a good question… If THE HEADS ever came to the US we’d love to swing on their coattails for a few weeks. I’d really like to tour with TORCHE, they are the heaviest pop group out there, plus they draw big as hell. Ha! Ha! Who else? Huh, ANNIHILATION TIME, we’ve still got their blood all over our drumset after letting ‘em use it in Brooklyn. Crazy good live show.
Any other bands locally or abroad you would care to recommend?
Locally, um, HOLLYWOOD are our brothers in being the only remotely similar band in the area. TRIAC is fucking terrifying grindcore. DACTYL makes Amphetamine-Reptile inspired noise rock. And these bands illustrate how small Baltimore is. They all share members. Smalltimore.
We’ve done multiple shows with MAMMATUS, WILDILDLIFE and NUDITY from the left coast, all of whom are taking psychedelic rock in different, awesome directions.
Another band I’d wholeheartedly recommend is MONOTONIX from Tel-Aviv Israel. They are the hardest working guys in rock music right now, hands down. It sounds like Thin Lizzy or Queen done totally raw and punked out. The live show is amazing. Ami, the singer, gets into all sorts of trouble, climbing, igniting, snatching, grabbing, jumping, you name it. They have tons of videos on the web worth watching, it’s a live experience unlike any other.
Finally, if you could ask me a question what would it be?
Will you fly us out to England and put MORE DEEPER out on vinyl?
Ha! Ha! Forget England, Dan! Direct flight to Belfast for that vinyl launch show…