July 12, 2010
In “Freshly Baked,” we feature promising young bands or bands that are otherwise lacking the attention we think they deserve.
By Van Damned (TX)
Download: Uzala – “Plague” [M4A]
Doom is one of the great chameleon genres of metal: it can be dirt-caked and decrepit; it can be mournful and elegiac; or, such as in the case of Boise, Idaho’s Uzala, it can be powerful and majestic. The four-piece — helmed by husband/wife duo Chad Remains and Darcy Nutt — have released what may be the demo of the year. At just four songs and 19 minutes long, it shows a band nascent in inception, yet mature and wizened in actualization. I caught up with the busy tattoo artists via e-mail to talk about Kurosawa films, analog audio and, of course, DOOOOOM!
Crustcake: Where did the name Uzala come from? Is it a reference to the Kurosawa film?
Chad Remains: Steve (Gere, drums) came to rehearsal one day and said, “I just saw the best movie in the whole world!” I hadn’t seen it in quite some years and neither had Darcy (Nutt, vocals/guitars). We watched it again and it definitely hadn’t lost anything on a second or third viewing. Gorgeous and enormous landscape shots fraught with peril and wonder. I think I’ll go watch it again. The relationship that develops between the Captain and Dersu is a beautiful thing. (And I want one of those old Winchester Model 1895 Muskets in 7.62x54R that Captain carries…)
Crustcake: Tell me briefly how the band came came together. With this being your first demo, it must have been fairly recently. Is this correct?
Chad Remains: In March of 2009, Darcy and I decided to go to The Bombshelter and drink a bottle of vodka and play some music. We had a few ideas that stuck even through the haze of drinking and she and I were determined to make a band out of this conception. I had previously played some music with Stephen — mostly down-tuned Earth worship — so I knew that he and I had a good chemistry. He is a talented musician, in addition to being a solid drummer, so I called him up to see if he would be interested. Our first bass player, Evil Mike Wiensz, was interested, even though his talents lie more in the direction of black/death guitar ripping. He left Uzala shortly after we recorded “The Reaping” so that he could concentrate more fully on his band, Tears of the Wizard. We wish him the best. Mirce joined up soon afterwards, soon earning the nickname “The Hook Up” since he is constantly acquiring killer ancient musical gear. Heh heh… So now we feel we have a cohesive lineup and we are making the music we want to hear and play.
Crustcake: How did your sound come about? Did you have a feel for what you were going to do ahead of time or did it emerge after getting together?
Chad Remains: I think a lot of our sound comes from using dinosaur amplification and guitars. Our newest piece of gear is Darcy’s Orange 4×12″ cabinet, but it still has an old vibe to it with the speakers that are loaded. In addition to this is our simplistic nature of playing — we don’t attempt to over-complicate our songs with fancy drumming or guitar work; our abilities are also a limiting factor here for certain! Of course there are elements of the sound that shift and change as we get more comfortable with the songs, but I really doubt that we will be featured in Guitar World anytime soon.
Crustcake: Who’s responsible for the songwriting? Tell me a little about the process.
Chad Remains: Darcy had a couple of tunes that she had been playing on acoustic guitar before the band was formed and she and I rewrote and rearranged them late at night until we felt they were more suitable for this band. Sometimes the songs start forming out of a single riff that I come up with at rehearsal, but we attempt to get most of the song processes finished at home so that our practice time as a band isn’t filled with endless jamming. We have had a few riffs that get tossed in the bin after a couple of weeks, usually because they don’t have the kind of atmosphere that we are after or they are too complicated. Darcy will usually come up with a scratch vocal melody and some lyrics and the we dissect everything at home until we are pleased with the result.
Crustcake: From where does Uzala draw its primary influences?
Chad Remains: If you mean bands and the like, I would have to say that some of our favorites are Earth, Cream, Goatsnake, Sleep, YOB, Dark Throne, Grand Magus (and) Electric Wizard. Hell, this list could go on for quite some time. Darcy and I were absolutely blown away by Death Row at Roadburn this year. Roadburn is a killer festival and she and I have been (as audience attendees) three years running now. Living in Boise, Idaho, doesn’t offer the most extensive list of touring bands – so we travel to see bands. We do get lucky now and again with some killer bands coming through. Some recent (ish) killers were High on Fire, Red Fang, Wolves in the Throne Room (and) Toxic Holocaust – so it’s not as bleak as one might imagine.
Crustcake: Those of us who live on the fringes of America’s heartland (New York, California, Texas) tend to see its interior as pretty barren, artistically. Do you share the same opinion?
Chad Remains: Consider that there have been some pretty amazing bands formed here in the hinterlands. Caustic Resin, Septic Death, H Hour (became TAD), Treepeople, PussyGutt, to name a very few just from Boise. Hell, LaMonte Young was born in Bern, Idaho! It does seem though that a lot of young people move from the small towns and small cities to try their hand at a bigger place with a more educated audience and more venues. There is definitely a conservative atmosphere here and conformity is very important to most.
plan to release released your demo on cassette tape. What are your thoughts on analog audio versus digital? Is putting Uzala out on vinyl a priority to you?
Chad Remains: We would love to see our songs on vinyl and I … see it as the best archival form of an album. CDs seem much more disposable to me with the smaller artwork. Even the media itself seems to make less of an impression. A big fat black slab of vinyl just looks more impressive to me than a shiny CD. Playing records is also something a bit more active on the part of the listener as well. Even with an automated turntable, you’re still going to get off of the couch sooner or later if you want to hear the rest.
Cassettes are cool as well. Maybe just because (the) first music I owned as a kid were cassettes. Def Leppard’s Pyromania and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, since you didn’t ask! Ha ha! There is also a darker vibe inherent in cassette tapes and the degradation can yield some really cool sounds. Most of us here in this music wouldn’t be the same without those old Celtic Frost tapes that our buddy dubbed for us (because) we dubbed Cro-Mags for him! Tape trading is cool — and maybe someday it will the record industry! One can only hope…
So far as analog versus digital is concerned, if we are talking inside of the realm of the recording process, really digital recording is just another tool and it can be misused like any other. That being said, there’s something very permanent feeling about hitting the VU meters really hard on a 2-inch tape machine. I am not an audio expert by any means and Uzala recorded two of our songs with a computer and mixed in Pro Tools. I’ll let you decide which ones.
Crustcake: Some bands to which Uzala draw an immediate comparison include Jex Thoth and the Devil’s Blood. Do you agree? Do you share an affinity for those bands?
Chad Remains: Gotta say that Totem/Jex Thoth are fucking amazing. I also heard a small bit of Sabbath Assembly which promises to be killer. I haven’t heard much of The Devil’s Blood, to be honest — although I did see a brief bit of a set of theirs at Roadburn a couple of years ago. I’m actually listening to “Christ or Cocaine” right now since you brought it up. I like the early Judas Priest style riffing going on in here.
Crustcake: In fact, I’d say it’s safe to say that women in doom are pretty rare. I’d love to get a comment from Darcy about what drew her to the band and doom in general.
Darcy Nutt: I have always been fond of various types of metal. From Carcass to Sleep, Goatsnake to Emperor, Thorr’s Hammer to Celtic Frost, I love the heaviness of doom. There is room in the music for the listener to expand on what is there. Chad and I used to play music together a bit a long time ago. We share a very similar aesthetic with music. We knew what kind of stuff we wanted to play, and what we’d like to hear, and so Uzala happened. There seem to be more women in doom these days. I honestly don’t think about it at all. I’m a tattoo artist as well, which has for a long time been a “man’s business”, so I’m very used to being a minority in my field. No big deal. I do what I like, and I like what I do.
Crustcake: How does the song “Fracture” fit it with the rest of Uzala’s overall sound? I get some pretty gnarly Celtic Frost vibes from that song.
Chad Remains: Well, it probably is a bit of a departure since I am doing the singing on that one. The lyrics are pretty much straight Robert E. Howard sorcery and the riffs are in the vein of Celtic Frost and Dark Throne, in spirit at least. It’s also the only song that I use distortion (self-built RAT clone). Everything else is fuzz tones. I think we will probably have some more songs like “Fracture”, but only time will tell. It seems to hit the audience sideways up against the head when we do it live. Feels frenetic and venomous to play and sing it for me. It definitely calls forth a blacker side of the band.
Crustcake: “Plague” has such a powerful vocal melody. Tell me a little about how that song came together.
Chad Remains: Our drummer, Stephen, came up with that one and brought a recording to us with a scratch vocal line and piano. We then adapted it to guitars and drums and then Darcy rewrote the vocal melody a couple of times and altered the lyrics. Stephen is a talented musician and often has great insight to share with us for arranging songs and for getting the most out of our simple song structures. The origins of the tempo were from a discussion that Stephen and I had late one night about how a record sounds at the inside near the label when the autoreturn doesn’t work anymore. That “shhhhhhssssshhhhh…kkkkkk…shhhhhhsssshhhhh…kkkkkkk…” that only vinyl lovers can appreciate.
Crustcake: What’s next for Uzala? Plans for a full-length? A tour?
Chad Remains: We have a few great gigs coming up … with Zoroaster, Black Tussk, and our friends Dark Castle and PussyGutt at the Red Room here in Boise. Also playing with Black Skies and our friends Beautician at this great outdoor spot in Black Canyon in July. We try to play about once a month here locally, and we are planning a small Northwest tour for the fall. Planning is still in embryonic stages right now, but Seattle, Olympia, Portland, Eugene, and Reno are on the list. We are currently writing a few new songs and we have several more that didn’t make it on the demo and haven’t been recorded yet. We are hoping to do a full-length recording before the year is out, but I am not convinced that we should do a self release. I am talking with a label right now about doing a 7-inch release, but I don’t want to say too much since nothing is certain as of yet. Uzala shirts are available (any colour you like … as long as it’s black!) and we have embroidered patches and cassettes being shipped as I write this. We are shopping out the demo to some labels and of course they are available from us at our gigs or folks can contact us through Myspace (www.myspace.com/uzaladoom) or find us on Facebook. Anybody interested can also contact me for bookings or demos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.