Wednesday, August 28, 2013

…Producing psychotropic effects: Interview with Ron Vanacore of CURSE THE SON

It seems as if the world is slowly starting to wake-up and take notice of Curse the Son’s stellar sophomore effort, ‘Psychache’. The menacing riffs of Ron Vanacore combined with the propulsive rhythm section of drummer Michael Petrucci and bassist Cheech have yielded one of the year’s finest albums to date. The band’s debut, ‘Klonopain’, was a solid slab of stoner-doom, but Curse the Son has managed to push their sound to dizzying new heights with a refined focus on head-nodding groove and bleary-eyed psychedelia. Vocalist/guitarist Ron Vanacore was cool enough to shed some light on the making of ‘Psychache’, the future of the band, and more…

SM - Hey, Ron, thanks for taking the time for chatting with me on behalf of the Temple of Perdition. I have to say that ‘Psychache’ is easily my most spun album of the year. While your debut, ‘Klonopain’, was a solid album and well worth the purchase ‘Psychache’ seems as if it’s on a whole other plane in terms of progression and musicianship. Is there anything that went into the making of your sophomore album that stands out or was different, or is it just a matter of “practice makes perfect”?

RV - First off, thanks so much Steve.  I am thrilled that you enjoy the record so much. We receive messages from people all over the world, telling us how much they enjoy our music and what it means to them.  We are blown away each and every time, and I can’t begin to tell you how much it truly means to us.
You are correct in your suggestion that ‘Psychache’ is on a different level than ‘Klonopain’.  ‘Klonopain’ was a collection of songs that had been created over the course of 3 years.  The music was written and arranged entirely by me, and some songs had been written before I even had a band to jam with!

Subsequently, the songs on ‘Psychache’ were written rather quickly. We wrote those tunes between July and December of 2011.  The songs for ‘Psychache’ were written with more of a “band” concept in mind, and some of the riffs and ideas were born just from jamming.  The biggest difference between ‘Klonopain’ and ‘Psychache’ was the addition of Mike Petrucci on the drums.  He joined us in June of 2011 and all we did was write that entire summer.  Mike is a trained musician, and a top-notch drummer.  As soon as he joined the band, it was immediately obvious that he was going to help us to grow as musicians and songwriters.  His impact cannot be understated!  I had known Mike for a long time, and hoped of playing with him in a band at some point. Luckily, the stars aligned properly and we haven’t looked back since.

SM - The band put out ‘Psychache’ earlier in the year as a self-release and I was expecting fans of doom, stoner, and sludge to be all over it. Recently the album is seeing a bit of a resurgence that seems to coincide with the digital release through your Bandcamp page. Why did it take six months for ‘Psychache’ to finally be available digitally? Any chances of seeing ‘Psychache’ on vinyl?

RV - Well truth be told, there was a false start with the release of ‘Psychache’.  It had always been our intention to shop this record in the hopes of landing a record deal, so we wanted to wait a bit before we self-released it. There were some promo copies of the CD distributed at the Stoner Hands of Doom festival last year in New London, CT and some of the songs found their way onto YouTube.  The cat was out of the bag, so we just went with it. The first round of reviews/interviews, and the subsequent requests to purchase the CD soon followed.
Our management (313 Inc.) entered into serious negotiations with some labels in the late fall, and it was decided to wait and sit on the record for a bit.   Even with negotiations still ongoing presently, we decided that we could not wait any longer. We knew ‘Psychache’ was too good to rot on the shelf, so it was given its proper release a couple weeks ago in the digital download format.  It is available as a CD as well, and YES; there is a very good chance that you will see the ‘Psychache’ record on vinyl at some point very soon!
SM - In response to ‘Psychache’, Ulla Roschat of The Wicked Lady Show and Temple of Perdition has said, “I'm totally hooked. It's of an outstanding beauty, everything comes together as if it's just natural.” I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Did the pieces fall into place from the get go? Is ‘Psychache’ the end product that you had envisioned before going into the studio?

RV - That was really cool of Ulla to say, comments like that not only make my day, they make my LIFE! 
I was taken aback by the response to ‘Klonopain’.  As a musician, you always hope that your creation will resonate with others and make an impact. I was pleasantly surprised with the way that record made its mark.  The reviews from the stoner/doom press were overwhelmingly positive and the fan reaction was amazing.
Due to the success of the ‘Klonopain’ record I felt a tremendous amount of pressure when planning its follow up.  This was a situation I had never found myself in before, and we’ve all heard of the “sophomore slump”.  When mixing began, the feel and vibe of the record really began to all fall into place. 

We didn’t want to make “Klonopain II”, so it became very important for us to make this one a different experience entirely.  As the mixing progressed, each and every song began to take on its own life.  As a perfectionist, ‘Psychache’ became an obsession for me.  I poured everything I had into mixing the record.  It was a very exciting experience, but also difficult and emotionally draining at times.

SM - Related to Ulla’s comment about ‘Psychache’ coming together naturally, how much time was spent on the album’s sequencing?
RV - A lot! When I was a kid, I was so into the sequence of songs on the records I dug.  I loved the concept of 2 sides and all the thought that is involved in picking which song leads off, which one is the closer, etc.  Again, as the mixing progressed and the characteristics of each song began to appear, it became clearer and clearer which songs would go where. 
I sincerely think that the CD ruined the pacing of a record. I enjoy the ebb and flow of the classic records, and have always tried to upkeep that old-school tradition.

SM - The only real criticism that I could possibly launch at ‘Psychache’ is that the album seems too short, though there can be something said about being concise and leaving the listener wanting more. It’s the same feeling I get after listening to most of Saint Vitus’ discography. Were there any tunes left on the “cutting room floor”?
RV - I always think it is better to leave the listener wanting more, whether that be live or on a recording.  Why overstay your welcome?  That is another problem that arose with the advent of CD’s.  15 songs on an album?  Nah, I dug it when there were 7 or 8 tunes on a record.  All killer, no filler…ya know?
No, there were no songs left over.  As a matter of fact, a couple of the songs were written in the studio as the session was progressing.  I won’t divulge which ones though!

SM - One of the coolest things about both ‘Klonopain’ and, to a greater degree, ‘Psychache’ is that the riffs are menacing, yet still possess a hypnotizing groove. Was this the ultimate goal behind the formation of Curse the Son, or are the tunes just the end result of three guys getting together to jam?
RV - Well as I stated previously, at one point Curse the Son was just me.  I wanted to be super fucking heavy, fuzzy and slow.  I wanted a sound that was huge, fat and analog. 
The riffs are what they are.  I write what I write.  I can’t play other bands songs and I never played covers.  The only music I play is mine, so the riffs are of obvious importance to our music.  There is NOTHING like getting stoned and locking onto some badass hypnotic riffage.  Pure ecstasy!

SM - I remember reading a post on your Facebook page that stated that Curse the Son never tours and you play about four gigs a year. Is playing live a priority for the band? Are there any gigs on the horizon?
RV - Playing the RIGHT gigs is a priority for Curse the Son.  I would much rather play 4 meaningful shows a year, than play every other weekend at dive bars just to make a couple bucks.  I am a long time veteran of the Connecticut metal scene and I have paid my dues.  I’ve learned that playing too many shows can become detrimental to the overall psyche of a band and end up working against you.
We would like to tour if we can find a label that will help us with some tour support.  My personal life doesn’t really allow for extended periods away from home, so it is something that I could only do once in a while.  We have people from all over the country (and the world) who write to us daily asking us to come play their hometown.  I think it would be so awesome to play in different areas and meet the people who know and love our music.  Someday it will happen, when I am not sure.

SM - What’s the music scene like in Connecticut, particularly around your hometown of Hamden, and how does Curse the Son fit in?
RV - The music scene in Connecticut is a victim of its location.  We are stuck between New York City and Boston.  There are a few really great bands around here, but it is so difficult to gain any traction.  There are very few places to play and the majority of the bands around here are death metal.  You wouldn’t think it, but it plays to our advantage when we gig with a bunch of death metal bands.  We stand out.  We make our mark and people remember whom we are.
There are only a few bands in our area that are doing the stoner/doom thing, so there is not much of a scene for our music.  Sea of Bones and Lord Fowl are the two bands that immediately come to mind.  It is tough to get people to come out to local shows now.  There are so many other things that are competing for their attention.  Plus, they can always watch it on YouTube the next day right??  All things considered, we have developed a pretty decent following in our area.

SM - What’s the current status of Curse the Son? Are you guys working on any new material or do you have any plans to record in the near future?
RV - We are currently writing material for the 3rd release.  At present time we have 4 songs in the can and hope to begin recording by October/November 2013.  I hope that the next record will be released mid winter 2014.

SM - I can say without reservation that ‘Psychache’ is one of those rare albums that I can reach for regardless of how many times I’ve listened to it or what my mood is and I can still totally get into it. Are there any albums, classic or contemporary, that you never seem to tire of?
RV - That’s a great question!  I never tire of ‘Deliverance’, ‘Back In Black’, ‘Sabotage’, ‘Master Of Reality’, ‘Unleashed In The East’, ‘Diary Of A Madman’, ‘Zeppelin III’, ‘Dopes To Infinity’ and ‘Black Masses’ by Electric Wizard amongst many others!  I generally only listen to music that was made previous to the mid-90’s. I also enjoy a lot of the early thrash music from the 80’s, like ‘Hell Awaits’ and ‘Infernal Overkill’ by Destruction. 

SM - Any last thoughts on future recordings, the status of Curse the Son, or the big existential questions?
RV - Well, like I said we are currently busy writing material for the next record.  We are in a really good headspace right now as a band.  The sales and downloads of ‘Psychache’ has been mind blowing to say the least.  The best part is that a lot of people who are grabbing ‘Psychache’ are grabbing ‘Klonopain’ too, which means we are gaining lots of new fans everyday.  It is a very exciting time for us.  We hope to have some record label support by the time the 3rd record is released, but if not, we will just do it on our own again.  The music biz has become a very D.I.Y. system and that is OK with me. 
Anyone interested can still purchase a copy of the ‘Psychache CD, and we have T-Shirts for sale as well. 
The last thing I would like to say is thank-you to everyone who has shown us such love and support so far.  Please keep spreading the word about us.  Word of mouth is the only way a band like us will continue to grow and so far it has been a magical ride.  Keep the faith brothers and sisters and let’s keep the party going…..Get HIGH!!

Interview by Steve Miller

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