Heart of Steel: Interviews

The Heavils:
Interview with guitarist, Mossy

Interviewed by Chris Hawkins

It is truly rare, in this art form or any other medium, that something truly original comes around. Often, new bands are so easy to spot as blatant hybrids of their combined influences. Gradually, music becomes stale and the “good” bands are few and far between as the scene becomes inbred with clones. Thus, it is indeed a pleasure when something new and fresh such as the debut album from The Heavils comes across this writer’s desk. The Heavils take a simple formula, Rock ‘N Roll, and manage to twist it, manipulate it, and call it their own with the addition of some manically devised instruments custom-made by their guitarist/singer, Brian. Be sure to check out their web site, theheavils.com, for some great info on the band as well as some pictures of their homemade instruments.

How’s it going?

I was on the web site today…




Yours, Metal-Rules.com, right. I see you interviewed Gene Hoglan recently. I was just with those guys not too long ago. I know Devin and I played with Byron in another band in Vancouver.



I read that, Caustic Thought? How was that?

It was fun. It was a good experience, you know. I just noticed you interviewed him and thought that was pretty cool.



I recently got your CD. My first impression is it has a very big sound. How did you come about working with Steve Albini?

We have a friend in town and his band recorded with Steve Albini, and he used to intern there at the studio. He got us in and set it up. Steve will work with anybody I think. It worked out. He actually only did tracks 11, 12, and 13. We did the rest in Madison at a studio called Sleepless Nights.



How was that?

That was cool. Actually, we went in to just do a demo, and the label ended up really liking what we had done thus far. We just went back and redid some of the vocals and remixed the whole thing. I think overall it turned out pretty good, though.



Yeah, it sounds great. It has a very organic sound. I also notice there’s definitely an element of fun there as well.

Definitely, definitely. We tried to make that come across.



You guys are from Rockford, Illinois. How is the scene out there?

It’s pretty good. It’s growing for sure. Just in the last couple of years there’s been a lot of bands that have really started to push themselves to get out of town a bit more and try to get their name out a little bit more. It’s pretty much like any small scene.



How did the band hook up?

Me and Brian have known each other for a long time. We both had been in bands back in the late 80s, early 90s. He was in a band called Sarkoma and I was in another band in town. We kind of played around then and Brian and those guys kept playing for a while. I went out to Vancouver and jammed with Byron and those guys for a while. I came back home and bought a restaurant. I kind of quit playing in a band for a couple years. Brian was playing in this crazy funk band at the time, playing saxophone. They broke up, and I was really interested in playing music again. We hooked up and started playing together, and it kind of worked out pretty good. The instruments came about shortly after that.



There’s definitely some crazy instrumentation going on!

They’re pretty odd. Brian builds all of them. It’s pretty crazy.



Is it just for you guys, or is it a business?

No, he does it just for us right now. It’s just out of pure frustration according to him. They’re five string instruments, and they’re fretless. We use bass strings and guitar strings on them.



What gauge strings do you use?

On the top is an 80 gauge string, then a 54 gauge, and the rest are straight guitar strings. The bottom two are two 11’s. That’s where we get the high notes from.



What tuning do you use?

They’re all tuned to the same note. A couple of mine are tuned a pitch higher or lower than Brian’s.



Hearing a fretless instrument through distortion is crazy in and of itself!

Yeah, I know. We kind of had to relearn how to play a little bit for the first couple of months. Brian actually didn’t like it at first. I was playing one at practice one day and all of a sudden you just kind of start feeling it really well. You hit a chord or two and you start to make sense of it so I ran it through all these pedals, and Brian was like, “Wow, that’s really weird.” A week later, he came to practice with that toilet guitar. It blew us all away. It was pretty cool and ever since then he’s been making them nonstop.



That’s cool to have a mad scientist like that in the band.

Yeah, it’s weird. He gets the idea and then goes home and sketches it. Within two or three days, he has it done. It’s nuts to see him walk into practice with this crazy looking thing with strings and lights or whatever. He’s got his tools in case it breaks down of course. He’ll plug it into his amps, play it as loud as it can go, turn it off, mess with the intonation, and pretty soon he’s got it down.



Just looking at the names, “The Toilet”, “The Clitar”…

“The Clitar”, yeah. (laughs)

(laughs) What’s up with “The Clitar”?

Actually, we had an online contest on the web site and let the fans name it. We had a bunch of crazy names for that one. These guys from Canada actually came up with it. They wrote in and called it “The Clitar”. Brian really liked it so it stuck.



So are you guys pretty active on the website?

Yeah, our drummer designed it and takes all the pictures for it. We’re kind of self-sufficient in that way and update it a lot. You can kind of get a small view of the band that way I think.



It’s so good that you can bring exposure to yourself like that.

Yeah, I know. You have computers now and back then it was all cassettes and 8 x 10’s. Your bio really meant something then. Now you can do so much with the internet. You can put full videos on and people can see your images and everything. It’s pretty weird.



It’s definitely a much tighter community.

Yeah, it’s a way to get to a lot of kids at one time. We’ve been getting a lot of hits on it. It’s been a pretty good tool for us.



So for the people that are in the dark, how would you describe your sound?

Punk-influenced Rock ‘n Roll…I don’t know. Surf Rock. We try to have as much fun as we can and still play rock ‘n roll. Even though the instruments are different or weird, we still try to keep to good simple beats and good catchy three chord rhythms. I guess it’s kind of Punk-influenced Rock.



Don’t you think some of the best bands have been more straight-forward in their approach anyway?

Yeah, I’m into old AC/DC, Bon Scott-era, and the old Black Sabbath. Riffs like that really stick in your head. I really like those kinds of bands.



Plus you’ve kind of thought outside the box with the addition of “The Clitar”…(laughs)

(laughs) Yeah, they’re pretty wild to see. The tube one is a pretty crazy sight to see too because you can’t ever see the neck. He pulls it out and it looks like he’s wielding this crazy gray tube, but he’s actually playing it.



What are your tour plans coming out?

I think we’re going to be going out with Strapping Young Lad. We’re going to be doing their Canadian dates with them for sure. That’s coming up at the end of May so Byron’s supposed to call me when they get back from Europe. I know they’re going out with Meshuggah, and I’d really like to get on a couple of those dates…



That would be a great bill to be on.

That would be a good date for us, good exposure. Hopefully, we’ll get at least a date or two around here. Other than that, Jagermeister has been helping us out. We’ve been with them for about seven months now. They got us our first show in Chicago at the House of Blues. We opened for Otep. That was a really good show. They got us another show opening up for Hed PE and Saliva at the House of Blues in April.



How did you hook up with Jagermeister?

If you go to Jagermusic.com, there’s a place on the site called “How to become a Jager band”. We just sent them a kit like anyone would do. One of the bar owners here who really likes the band, he actually told his rep about it. They got back to us within a couple weeks, and we’ve been with them ever since. They actually sign bands at the independent level without having to be on a label, which I think is really cool for a bigger corporate type place like that to go out and sponsor a band that doesn’t have a deal.



How about Metal Blade? How did that come about?

Metal Blade is a weird story too. My friend here in town is a sports announcer for our local hockey team. He moved out to Bakersfield. Brian Slagel is a really big hockey fan, so he met him through that because Metal Blade sponsors the Bakersfield team’s jerseys or something like that. My buddy met Brian Slagel through the team, handed him a demo, and Brian Slagel really liked it. He called us up and that’s kind of how the whole thing happened.



That’s impressive. You got noticed from the top.

Yeah, it was really weird hearing from him.



That’s got to be almost surreal.

Yeah, he called the house, and I thought it was my buddy calling. It was pretty weird. He said he liked the stuff and wanted to know if we were doing anymore. We were working on like nine more songs in the studio at the time. We rushed in, did a rough mix, and got it out to them. They really liked it a lot and called us back. It was really weird circumstances I guess. I’m happy about it. I think they’re a great label.



How do you guys write songs?

Usually at practice, me and Brian just shoot off like 10 or 15 riffs a night and just play around. One always sticks. One or two always stay. We just play with them for a little bit. If we have one in particular, we’ll record it at practice. Brian will take it home, and he usually comes back in the next day or two with lyrics for it.



I’m sure it adds a spark to constantly have something new to play on too.

Yeah, it’s weird because every week it seems like we’re finding new noises or new ways for him to play one thing and me play over it. It’s really weird. Corey plays just a standard bass, five string bass so having him and Milo be able to lay down beats and a good low-end has been helping too. It’s given me and Brian more free time to experiment with the guitars because when we first started playing, it was just me, Brian, and the drummer. We didn’t have a bass player for the first eight months or so. We went out and did live shows like that because we have bass strings on top and me and Brian both run through bass and guitar amps so we were able to do it, but now we’ve had a bass player for a little over a year now. It’s really been helpful. Corey was our first choice. He was the only guy that came over, and the same with Milo, the drummer. We had another drummer before, for about six months. Corey and Milo had been in a band around here called Bill. They were a three piece and they were so good. We would watch them play and right when we needed a drummer we called Milo because Bill had been broken up. Milo was with us for a while, and we decided to get a bass player. Corey just fit right in. It was perfect, actually. Plus, Milo does all the web design and takes all the band pictures. It’s really an added bonus.



It sounds like things are really exciting for you now.

Yeah, we’re pretty excited. Rockford’s a small town. We’re excited to actually have people outside of Rockford to hear us and check us out.



Are you guys writing anything at the moment?

Yeah, we have a lot of songs that we didn’t include on the disc. There’s songs that we play live that we haven’t recorded yet. We’re constantly working on new ones. We want to have the next album plus ten songs done by the end of the summer. We want to get on it and have it ready. We’re really still finding ourselves as far as what we’re doing. I think there’s a lot of variety. Trying it out live is a good way to get it across. We have a lot of new songs that I want to get out and record.


Official The Heavils website

Label: www.metalblade.com

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