Interview with Altamont
October 27, 2013
Interview by: Mindiana Jones
Big Wheel Contributor
Altamont is amping up to unleash Mrs. Creech, their new limited edition 7 inch unto the world. This will be the first release from the ear popping rock n' roll band since 2005's Monkee's Uncle. To celebrate they will be playing a special release show November 2nd at Bender's Bar in San Francisco.
Altamont was born in 94 when Melvin's drummer Dale Crover bought a guitar. He started the band with his friends from Acid Kings, Dan Southwick on bass, and Joey Osbourne on drums. They later added engineer Toshi Kasai on guitar and keyboards.
I sat down with these four fellows for some insight into their style and upcoming release.
BW: What genre does your music fit into?
Dale Crover: Rock. We kinda got lumped in with the stoner rock stuff, especially because we were on Man's Ruin Records for our first couple of releases. I don't think any of us have a problem playing with those types of bands, but I guess we never felt that we were (stoner rock.) We don't worship Sabbath as much as those other bands do.
Joey Osbourne: There is a lot of variety to the way Dale approaches writing.
Dale: I borrow from all kinds of different places. Obviously with our name we are fans of the Rolling Stones, so that's where the blues element comes in.
Joey: What's not blues about it is that the tempo can shift a little bit, so it's slightly prog. It has fusion elements, but it's watered down.
Dale: We have a new 7 inch coming out and for the original track I was trying to writing something that's Tom Waits meets Captain Beefheart sorta, kind of noisy. The new 7 inch also has a Blue Oyster Cult cover on it, the song "Transmaniacon MC," which is a fictional Sci-fi version of what happened at Altamont.
BW: When was this 7 inch recorded?
Dale: 2 years ago. The basic track was 3 years ago.
Dan Southwick: We have a fair amount of basic tracks recorded, we just have to finish them.
Dale: We try to get together on the weekends, play, and then record it right then so we don't have to wait.
BW: Who produced the upcoming 7 inch?
Dale: I guess all of us. We have this guy here (Toshi) so it's easy enough to just have him do stuff. We recorded it in our rehearsal space with Toshi doing the engineering.
BW: Is it hard to engineer as well as be a part of the recording?
Toshi Kasai: Not at all, it's easier. I can record any time I want, I don't have to worry about other's schedules.
Dale: That's what took so long we were waiting on this guy to finish up.
BW: When did Toshi join the band?
Dale: After we did "Monkee's Uncle" in 05 we decided that Toshi should play in the band because he played a bunch of keyboards on the record.
Toshi: I didn't know I was in the band until the album released.
Dale: Yeah we just told him to show up to rehearsal because your in the band now.
Toshi: That album (Monkee's Uncle) is also the first production of Deaf Nephews.
(Deaf Nephews is the joint production and engineering project of Dale Crover and Toshi Kasai.)
BW: So, will this show on November 2ed be the official 7inch release show?
Dale: Yeah. The people putting out the album kinda made it that way. Our friend Bob started an Ace Frehley cover band (Frehley's Vomit) and wanted to do a show around Halloween, so it's a Day of the Dead thing. He asked us to play, and that got us together to start playing again. Then, these guys who run Valley King, a label in San Francisco, wanted to work with us. Alan Forbes is a poster artist, he designs all the album art for the label, and Justin McNeil runs Secret Serpents, they sell posters and work with a lot of different artists. So the 7 inch is limited edition colored vinyl, with Alan Forbes artwork numbered and signed. There will be 500 copies pressed. The cool thing is that they are also making a limited number of matching tee shirts with Alan Forbes artwork.
BW: Will the songs from the 7inch be available in other formats?
Dale: Probably eventually, we might add them to a full length at some time, or you will be able to download them.
BW: How has the sound evolved since your last release in 05?
Joey: It sounds the same to me, we just kinda kick stuff out.
Dan: I think we always go different places. We have a lot of basic tracks to go back and mix, and I think it will be interesting to see where that goes. I think it just goes down different roads depending on what we are listening to at the time. Now I think Dale and I have been listening to a lot of Captain Beefheart for some reason, and I was hearing it on the 7 inch. You kinda don't think about it and just go with it.
BW: Any current musical influences?
Joey: Ralph Carney, he played with Tom Waits. He is a bay area buddy of mine and a crazy bizarre instrumentalist.
Dale: When the White Stripes came out I kinda liked what they were doing and it was kinda like what I wanted to do. Not necessarily the two piece thing, but I guess going back to the bluesy thing. I thought it was similar to what I wanted to do.
BW: Does Buzz's style have an influence on your guitar playing?
Dale: Oh yeah, defiantly. We've been in a band for such a long time together, for sure.
BW: For the production quality, do you go for any type of style, such as the analog sound?
Dale: As analog as we can get with the protools rig. You know, we just leave it up to Toshi.
Toshi: It's doesn't matter. Good sound is good sound.
BW: Any non-musical influences on your style?
Dale: Baseball for Toshi and I.
Dale: Yeah, for some reason that always seems to be a running joke. There is a song called "Dumb Dumb Fever," and it was an episode of the Simpsons where grandpa Simpson is talking about Bart being sick and he's all like "What do you have?" and starts naming off all these things, dumb dumb fever was one of them.
BW: Does Altamont have a set writing formula?
Joey: Dale usually writes the songs.
Dale: Yeah, but it helps to get together with these guys to kinda flush things out. I have written stuff at home just kinda messing around. Dan and I have written stuff together. Then we have all collectively written songs together.
BW: Does your drumming style come into play when you write for guitar?
Dale: I let Joey do his thing really, because he plays different that I do. I think about it, and sometimes do demos on my own to show the basic idea.
Joey: That happens a lot, where I will ask if I can play it my way and he will be like "yeah, whatever." He comes in with pretty developed ideas on drums and because he's a really percussive guitarist and a really good guitarist, it makes it really easy to play to. It's not that complicated of a process.
Dale: Also it is easier for me to communicate with him too, I can explain things easier being a drummer.
BW: What equipment do you use that is vital to your sound?
Joey: I have an oversized 70's Ludwig set, with a 15 inch rack tom, 24 inch bass drum. As a gift Dale gave me a double pedal so I have been using those for about 10 years now. Generally speaking I'm all Zildjians. Usually bigger 20 or 22 inch older Zildjians with a darker sound. All rides even though I am using them as crashes.
Dale: I play a Les Paul gold top that I bought around the time of our 1st show. I really wanted a Les Paul for a long time because of KISS, I was a big KISS fan when I was a kid. Also Neil Young's electric stuff is a big influence on what we are trying to do. I have a bunch of amps this SUNN beta lead combo. My 1st amp with these guys was a Roland jazz chorus. Buzz convinced me to buy one because they are really versatile. I also have a 70's Marshall 50 watt amp. I have an old turbo rat pedal for distortion. A Dio D buzz box, a pedal that Dio D made for the Melvins, it is modeled after the MXR blue box, this crazy distortion pedal. I have been using a wah and a Boss delay. I have been trying to use less stuff so there is less to break down during a performance.
Toshi: Heritage guitar, which is made by the Gibson guys when they moved to Nashville in the 80's. Close to the feel of a Les Paul, a little bit thinner neck. A great guitar I found on craigslist that I have wanted since I was a kid. Gary Moore used it, he was in Thin Lizzy. My amp is a Fender super sonic. Great underrated guitar amp. I don't want to have the same Marshall sound as Dale on the record I wanted to get a little bit of a different sound. Xotic pedals, it is my friends company they gave me a bunch of stuff. The BB preamp is a better version of a tube screamer and has really nice EQ.
Dan: I play a Fender reissue early 60's jazz bass, it's really nice. I play a basic rock bass set up, a 69 SVT Ampeg head through an 8x10 cabinet. I have used a Boss bass overdrive pedal for years. Usually some octave pedal. I try to keep it basic, it jumps around depending on what we are recording. At one point I was using a wah wah on bass.
BW: After this release, will Altamont be more active musically?
Dan: I think the really cool thing that has been going on lately is we have been getting urging from other people to get going again. Our friend kinda pushed us into this show. Valley King asked us to do this 7 inch and that forced us to put it together, so that has been really cool.
Dale: Hopefully there will be more to follow. One good thing about Valley King is that they want to do more. They have already asked us before this first one is even out. You know, when we started the band in San Francisco, the Melvins didn't really practice because we all lived in different cities. Buzz lived in LA and our bass player lived in London, so we would only get together to practice before we had stuff to do, either record or tour. I had plenty of time and thought it would be fun to play guitar in a band and do something different.
Dan: I would say that the basis of the band has always been friendship. So there has never been the pressure of officially breaking up and getting back together. It is just we are always hanging out so it just kinda works out.
Dale: We never really broke up we just didn't do anything. Next month will be our 19 year anniversary as a band.
Altamont's new 7 inch Mrs. Creech will be a limited edition release on Valley King Records, with 500 copies being pressed on colored vinyl, including silk screened covers signed and numbered by artist Alan Forbes. There will also be a limited number of tee shirts available.
Altamont will be live at Bender's bar in San Francisco Saturday November 2ed. They are sharing the stage with Frehley's Vomit, with artwork being shown by Alan Forbes and Junko Mizuno.
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