venerdì 20 maggio 2016

SONIC WOLVES: Interview with Kayt Vigil vocalist and bassist of Sonic Wolves (ENG-ITA)

Today we interview Kayt Vigil, bassist and vocalist of the heavy rock band Sonic Wolves, the band she founded with her partner Vita (drummer of Ufomammut). With the addition of Paul Melotto(guitar/vocals) and Diniz(guitar) they have since released a 7 inch single titled "He Said" and are awaiting the upcoming release of their debut album "Before The End Comes"- both on Taxi Driver Records

During this interview, she described her personal journey in the world of music from the 1990's until today. She reveals a lot of insights from her experiences in America with her past bands including Catheter, Zed, Syzslak, Hatchetface, The Hounds Of Hasselvander and of course her important experience with Pentagram, as well as a few details about Sonic Wolves. This is a really intensive interview that we highly recommend reading...(FOR ITALIAN VERSION CLICK HERE)

Enjoy the reading!

- Hi Kayt! First of all thank you very much for this interview. I'd like you to present yourself to our readers, starting with your route as a musician, how and when you approached both the bass and the heavy/doom world. 

K: Hello and thank you. I am a musician who has been involved in the heavy underground rock/metal/doom scene since the early 90's in the USA and the last few years in Italy. I have primarily been a bassist and vocalist, but I have been a guitarist as well. I started playing music when I was quite young at school.  I  began playing bass in the early  90's when I started my first band with some roommates. We wanted to play something heavy and loud that would push the boundries of what was being played by our favorite bands at the time(everything from Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Kiss, Deep Purple to Unsane, Buzzov-en, Grief ,Floor, ect).  Ever since  that first day of rehearsal and because of the way the music resonated with me  I have been hooked on the sound, vibe and power of heavy music. Slow, fast, loud, clean, distorted, effect-laden- it didn't matter. If it the music was to be played in a heavy or intense style from the heart , it was definitely for me.   As the years have gone by, I have experimented in different types of bands.  I have always liked to push my own boundries by joining bands outside of my normal creative comfort zone. I feel that this approach to music can open many doors.  I have played in rock, metal, thrash, punk rock, grindcore, noiserock (for lack of a better term), many other manner of crossover heavy bands and  of course, doom metal. I encountered the world of doom metal in Philadelphia/Washington DC/Baltimore in 2002 as a musician. My band Syzslak (Philadelphia based)was playing shows with Earthride and Unorthodox - two highly regarded Maryland Doom bands. We all became friends and we started playing in MD more often. In 2006, after Syszlak broke up and Hatchetface began, it was time for a new chapter. Hatchetface continued the path where Syzslak left off. We ended up playing quite a bit in Maryland with lots of other local MD doom bands.   In 2007, Joe Hasselvander (Pentagram ex-drummer/Raven drummer) and I started communicating and he offered me a position as bassist for his band- The Hounds Of Hasselvander. In addition to Joe  as the lead guitarist and vocalist, it was also Gary Isom(Spirit  Caravan/Pentagram)on drums  and Mike Hickey(Venom ex-guitarist) for a brief period on guitar as well. At that time, I was often playing live with one group or the other.  It was an amazing time.

- You have several experiences in your life as a musician, starting from the 90s with ZED, continuing with Syzslak, Hatchetface, Catheter, The Hounds Of Hasselvander till the one that I think is the more important for you: Pentagram. Are you ok telling us about your past project and how it was working with such an important artist like Bobby Liebling?

K: All of the bands that I played in before  HOH/Pentagram were great experiences. I became aware of who I am as a musician through them. Within each of them I found my playing style and I discovered my musical strengths and weaknesses through challenging my limits.  They are all a part of my foundation and each of them are irreplaceable and valuable to me. Working with Bobby was an experience like no other I have ever had with another musician on stage or off,  or in the studio.  Here's a guy who I have been a fan of and admired for years. A performer who later became an established force in the world of 70's proto-metal (or whatever people are calling it these  days)and beyond and an important part of rock/doom metal world. As I stated earlier, it was Joe Hasselvander who had invited me to partake in the music. That in and of itself was a great honor because I equally admire and respect him . If it were not for him, I likely would not have played with Bobby at all. This era (2007-2009) seemed to me to be a sort of " transitional" phase for Pentagram. Bobby and Joe were friends and it was understood that Bobby would get on stage with us during a Hounds Of Hasselvander gig to perform Pentagram songs while he was in a sense getting himself back into the swing of performing after a long hiatus (I also saw him jump on stage with Unorthodox to perform some Sabbath songs too, and I think everyone just wanted to see him get back in action).  As far as we were concerned, the moment Bobby put a foot on the stage, we were officially performing Pentagram songs as Pentagram.  It was not a long time for me; a handful of concerts spread out over a year and a half roughly.   I am always appreciative for the opportunity because we had some very interesting, unforgettable times and some killer moments on stage together. While performing live he, like Joe and Gary ,is just a solid performer that knows how to captivate an audience. At times I even would catch myself watching him out of the corner of my eye during a song and wondering "what is he gonna do next?"!     This experience was long enough to attain a deeper understanding of the music and showmanship. It was a form of education on how to feel the music in your blood and guts. More importantly, how bring that vibe to your audience.   At this point, it was about 8 years ago that I was involved with these guys. It still affects me in many ways -anticipated or not. In 2008, Bobby, Gary and I went to a studio in Harleysville, PA to record the song "Flaming" for a Syd Barrett tribute compilation titled "Like Black Holes In The Sky" . Working with Bobby in the studio was a trip in that it was a bit surreal for me. It was mostly a  focused, yet relaxed session. He was committed to keeping the song sounding closer to the Syd Barrett version and not leaning too heavily on what fans might have expected Pentagram's approach  and sound to be.  It was strange and wonderful to be a part of something a little bit off the normal path for Pentagram. Playing with Joe and Bobby was a very unique experience filled with some great lessons on how to conduct oneself on stage or in the studio, how to go with vision into the music and to let go of inhibitions and  just play your heart out. Basically, it was pretty damn cool.

- You are from Philadelphia but you now live in Alessandria with your boyfriend Vita (Ufomammut). How have you lived this move? Artistically talking, how does it seem to you the musical overview here in Italy?

K: Actually, I am not from Philadelphia, although I did live there for 13 years. I had played in some of my most important bands there.  Before moving to Italy, I was living in Los Angeles for a couple years and playing in a band called ...Of The Horizon. We were on an indefinite hiatus by January of 2012 and I really wanted to keep playing(After 4 years, the album for...Of The Horizon will be out soon on Germany's Kozmik Artifactz label!). Vita and I had long discussed the possibility of starting a new band here in Italy. So  that is exactly what we did. He has proven to be a great partner and band mate. We are very dedicated to our projects (Sonic Wolves and Rogue State) and that attitude and focus supercedes any perception of what the music scene in Italy appears to be or should be in our minds. It seems that virtually  anywhere you are, you get out of it what you put  into it. There are some very supportive people here in Italy that are involved with labels, booking, studios, sound engineers, bands , fans, ect. I have seen some tremendous concerts here since I arrived in 2012- full of love  and enthusiasm for the music. Like other places there are also the other types who do not seem to share the collective vision of furthering the underground music scene. I stay away from  that side of things and don't like to dwell on negativity or associate with anything that obstructs my goals in music.  In my estimation, Italy is more or less the same as any other place where heavy rock/metal exists.

- Now a troublesome question, do you believe that problems or difficulties for female musicians still exist? Despite several active bands stating the countrary, is the musical panorama in your opinion still a lil bit sexist? 

K: I think that if it is still a question in the minds of people at all,  there is still something that needs to be solved. It's a very good question indeed. I don't think any one person could really answer this question fully. The way I see it, whatever exists in our society will also exist in the world of music, and sexism surely exists in both. Our scene is not immune to any issues that affect human beings. I have experienced it on a number of occasions, from discourteous/condescending male sound engineers, men in other bands I have played shows with , ect. I don't like to play the victim and I try not to let it get to me even if it has been difficult at times. I am a musician who plays for the joy of it, not to educate others on how to behave. However, I would have to say that it's much better now than it was 23 years ago when I started out playing. To be honest, I haven't come across any problems like this in a while.  It's been nice seeing sites that offer support for female musicians such as Women of Sludge/Stoner/Doom Metal . These kinds of things come from a place of love and respect. This is in stark contrast to things like ads and fliers that use descriptions such as "female fronted" or "all-female lineup" which to me, suggest that  it's somehow a novelty to see a woman on stage or in a band at all. It's out there and I think it's a bit exploitive  and meant to get the attention of a potential audience. The school of thought is find most useful is that in which  I view myself  as a musician, not  a female musican. Without marginalizing the issue, or ignoring the fact that somewhere, at some time sexism rears its ugly head, it is probably best to take away its power by diminishing  it in any way possible. Rock on sisters!

- Lets pass now to more recent times with Sonic Wolves, a band born from you and Vita in the 2012 with the monicker Tsutar. After several changes you are now a stable band with guitarist/singer Paolo Melotto (ex Psyconauts) and Diniz (Temple Of Dust, Mexican Chili Funeral Party). You announced the release of a new album with the single "He Said" published in a limited edition 7" for Taxi Driver Records, how did you get in touch with Sara and Maso?

K: Thankfully, we finally have a functioning line up with our new guitarists Paul Melotto and Diniz. Generally speaking, the Tsutar line-up had 5 members and it didn't work for any of us.  After months of trying to make it function, Vita and I felt that our two former guitarists no  longer shared the same creative vision that we intially agreed upon. Our progress was much too slow. Plus, Paul played keyboards in Tsutar and that never sat well with me because he is a guitarist and vocalist primarily. So, we decided to "clean house" and start over again while keeping the songs we wrote and changing the name to Sonic Wolves. In retrospect, we had always wanted Paul to play guitar and sing in this project. He and I were also both guitarists in Psyconauts and personally, I knew we could easily work together. Vita and I also knew that he could handle playing the style we envisioned  in an elegant, powerful way. We knew he would shine on the solos and contribute the needed masculine balance to the vocals. It was an easy decision to ask  him to rejoin us in a new line-up.   Diniz came to us by a stroke of great luck via our friendship with Massimo Elia, the sound engineer at the club Bloom(Mezzago) who introduced us. From the minute we met him, we knew he was one of us. His first rehearsal with us went so well, it was unbelievable.  He is also a great musician who handles the rhythm guitar and atmosphere of our sound. He is quite masterful at filling in the  voids with effects. You should see his pedal board- wow!  He completes our sound in a tasteful and precise manner. These two are a bit taciturn by nature, but they speak volumes while we play! Though the four of us have been together as a band  for a mere 10 months, we have already accomplished more than we thought possible by this point. We've been playing live and have released a 7" and have an album on the way. The groundwork for these releases was laid in December of 2014 by Vita, Stefano Tocci ( of I.C.O., Deaf Eyes, and our studio engineer at Ampire Studio in Pistoia and guitarist on the Wolfwitch demo)and me.  From December of 2014 until November of 2015, we slowly but surely coalesced  and added Paul and Diniz, revamped the songs and went back to Ampire Studio to add the two guitars and rerecord the vocals. The end result of all this is the now available "He Said" single and the full length album "Before The End Comes" that will be out this month on Taxi Driver Records. Before our collaboration with them, we were already acquainted with Sara and Maso. Vita has known Maso for years, with Ufomammut having played shows with Ghandi's Gun/Isaak when Maso played with them. Sara and Vita met through the Genova Urla festival in 2013 because he had played it with Ufomammut and she was involved in organizing it. I was with Ufomammut at that same festival, so I met both  Sara and Maso then. When we recorded the demo "Wolfwitch", we sent them a copy of it and they loved it enough to want to work with us and release our new and upcoming records.  They are fantastic people who run a great label and record store that is growing and evolving every day.  We are so proud to be associated with them.

- Talking about the new release, how would you describe the album that is arriving and what did inspire you for the composition of the tracks? Which are the themes approached in your lyrics?

K: The new album is called  "Before The End Comes" and is a culmination of everything we have been writing from the very beginning in 2012 up until November of 2015. We have always wanted to write heavy songs with an  emphasis on all of our favorite elements of rock from the 1960's/70's and metal . We include these influences but do not want to become cliche', so we use our interpretations of these elements enough, but not overly so. The one consistent theme through these songs  our love of using a heavy sound played straight from the heart. Everything from the riffs, to the vocals to the compostion of the songs is either down-tuned, dirty, heavy -or all three . We chose to sing rather than scream the vocals, but even they done in a sort of gritty way.  We wanted to use elements of catchiness and familiarity and combine  them in our own  unique ways that we feel capture the song's theme and essence. At the appropriate times we use a clean sound with  a low dynamic that swells and crescendos into a wall of sound.  We use effects regularly but we try to use them in way that doesn't bury the song or turn it away from it's original intention of being a rock song. Lyrics are based on a variety of subjects such strange dreams and nightmares, love in its many forms, myths, folklore, views on religion, human outcries and longings and historical events. I will discuss two of them here.  The song "Geronimo" is self explanatory. We admire what he stood for even though we  discovered through our research that he wasn't always so popular with all Chiricauhua Apaches. Apparently some of them thought he was making their lives worse by fighting those who invaded their lands. Others joined him in that fight to save their homeland and preserve their liberty. To us, he stood for true freedom and standing up to those who would enslave others. I think we could use more Geronimos in these days to fight suppression and tyranny.  "Freedom Is The Devil" is another special song to me. It is a subject that I often like to discuss- the  following without question  of some religious dogma versus thinking for oneself.   It always amazes me that in 2016, people still blindly throw their faith and money at church or cleric who offers a vague promise of a better life/afterlife. It has never made sense to me and never will. I find it interesting that some of these same followers have expressed views that anyone who doesn't believe as they do is influenced by the "devil"and is therefore evil. To them, being a free thinker is to be evil- under the influence of some evil entity from a book that I can only call a fairytale. I'm not suggesting that there is no evil in this world, but free thinking is most assuredly not evil. The only devil I know of is "in the details" as the expression goes. In any case, if you find peace in religious faith, fine. But please, keep it to thyself- Amen!

- The artwork duties have been given to Michele Carnielli, Kröwnn's frontman and lately starter of the graphical project Seals Of Blackening. How was this cooperation born with him? How was the artwork conceived? And is there a meaning behind it?

  K: Like so many collaborations today, our association began as a facebook connection with my investigation into the page of the band he plays guitar for Kröwnn. Vita has been acquainted with Michele for a few years. When I discovered that Michele is also an  artist, he and I started talking about the possibility of him doing artwork for Sonic Wolves'  first full-length album. This was well over a year ago and since that time the cover art concept has evolved. Initially it was in color and was mostly Native American imagery, animals like hawks, bison and of course, wolves. Now , for both the single and full length it contains some similar imagery elements incorporated into a geometrical alchemy theme. The color scheme is scaled down to black and either gold or silver respectively depending on the release.  I described to Michele what kinds of subjects I wanted to see in the art, but  it was all his creation so it could mean something different to him. To me, the imagery represents magic, connectedness with all things and most especially the intensity, power of loyalty and guardianship found in wolves. The music we play represents these things to me in one  way or another so that is what I see in the artwork. Intensity of the sound, powerful  loyalty in our approach to our musical style and guardianship of keeping true to ourselves and our musical roots.   I have always identified with wolves and feel a connection to them. I find inspiration in their nature. Not the "pack mentality" that often accompanies them in portrayals, but their beauty and freeness of spirit. The way they organize their societies, their intelligence and their seemingly ritualistic behaviors. There is much to be learned from them.   Michele captures these ideas beautifully in the artwork. It is out of this reverence for them that I feel the artwork reflects both my views in the lyrical content and the way our music has evolved through the alchemy of creative transformation.. It is even a testament to how we operate our band- as an organized and loyal group. In my mind, it all fits together perfectly.

- Do you have a plan for a future tour? Here in Italy or maybe even abroad?

K: Absolutely. It has been a long time coming for the  band and for me personally. We are edging closer to being ready to get on the road. We are planning to hit all the places we possibly can in Italy, the rest of Europe, North America, Australia, ect.

- Greeting and thanking you again for this nice chat, the closing answer is for your essential albums, those who left a sign in your life somehow.

K: Thank you once again! I have a  pretty extensive list, so here goes....Grand Funk Railroad-(The first "red album", Closer To Home, E Pluribus Funk, On Time), Jimi Hendrix (everything that great man did!) Steppenwolf(7, Slow Flux, For Ladies Only), Motorhead(Overkill, On Parade, Iron Fist, No Remorse- most of what they did), Atomic Rooster (Death Walks Behind You,In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster), Savoy Brown (Raw Sienna, Lion's Share), MC5 (Kick Out The Jams, Back In the USA), Cactus(One Way Or Another, Restrictions), Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath , Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Vol 4), Blue Cheer (Vincebus Eruptum, Outside Inside, The Original Human Being), Captain Beyond (Captain Beyond), Mountain (Climbing), Blue Oyster Cult (Tyranny and Mutation), Bang(Bang, Mother/Bow To the King), Budgie (Budgie, Squawk),  Rainbow(Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Rising), Kiss (Double Platinum, Alive II) , Deep Purple (In Rock, Burn, Stormbringer, Fireball, Machine Head),Pentagram (First Daze Here The Vintage Collection, First Daze Here Too, Relentless, Sub-Basement, Day Of Reckoning, Be Forewarned) ACDC (High Voltage) Janis Joplin(Pearl), Shocking Blue(At Home),The Allman Brothers (The Allman Brothers Band, Eat A Peach),Lynyrd Skynyrd (Gimme Back My Bullets, Second Helping, Nothin' Fancy) The Groundhogs (Thank Christ For the Bomb) Metallica (Ride The Lightening, Master of Puppets Kill 'Em All) Slayer  (Reign in Blood, South Of Heaven), Unsane(Singles '89-'92, Scattered, Smothered and Covered), Grief (Dismal, Miserably Ever After), Kreator (Coma Of Souls) Black Flag (My War, Damaged, Slip It In) and Trouble(Manic Frustration) a lot I'm sure I have missed. 

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